Blizzard Blasts New England

What to Know

  • Near-blizzard conditions will impact the region through the evening.
  • Heavy snow and reduced visibility will make travel on roadways nearly impossible at times.
  • There will be moderate to major flooding at the coast, and scattered to widespread power outages are also likely due to high winds.

A massive winter storm that could leave behind up to 18 inches of snow continues to pummel New England with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding.

Dozens of crashes were reported, and icy conditions on the Zakim Bridge temporarily forced part of Interstate 93 in Boston to shut down until the highway could be plowed and treated. No serious injuries were reported.

Widespread flooding was reported in numerous coastal cities and communities along New England's eastern shoreline, including Boston and Portland, Maine, and the rising waters stranded people in homes and cars.

"Much of this flooding was the result of an historic high tide," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday afternoon. "The good news is the water should subside soon."

Icy waters from Boston Harbor poured into streets during the afternoon high tide in the city's Seaport District and parts of downtown popular with tourists.

Elsewhere in coastal Massachusetts, the state National Guard helped rescue a woman and her two children from a car in flood waters in Marshfield. Flooding in Newburyport forced evacuations on Plum Island, and the only road from the island to the mainland was closed, police said. Even historic Plymouth Rock was underwater, rendered almost invisible to onlookers.

Joe Weatherly, a 40-year-old artist from Los Angeles, was in Boston's Seaport district, holding his Boston terrier while searching for a seafood restaurant. Part of the district was flooded. One area subway station had rivers of water flowing down the stairs.

"For someone in California, this is really, really scary. Mind blowing," he said. "We don't live in a state where things shut down with the weather. I've just never seen this much snow in my life."

Blizzard warnings and states of emergency were in wide effect, and wind gusts hit more than 70 mph in some places. Eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island braced for snow falling as fast as 3 inches per hour.

Light snow started falling in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire just before dawn Thursday. Snow increased after sunrise and peaked in the afternoon.

Heavy snow and reduced visibility is making travel on roadways nearly impossible as the winter storm moves through. Near-blizzard conditions will continue to impact the region through the evening.

Hundreds of schools across the region closed Thursday and officials urged people to stay off the roads. Boston and some other schools have already announced that they'll be closed on Friday due to the one-two punch of heavy snow followed by the return of frigid temperatures.

The Boston Bruins home game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday has also been postponed due to the snowstorm. The date of the makeup game hasn't been announced.

Despite warnings to the contrary, some braved the whiteout conditions as the storm pummeled the region.

Qizuyu Fan, who hails from a Chinese city near the border with Russia, said he wasn't fazed by the tough weather. He said it's nothing compared to what he's had to deal with at home, where temperatures are often well below zero in the winter.

The 21-year-old Boston Children's Hospital research student was out getting groceries but planned to spend a good part of the day playing in the snow. 

A mail carrier who works in Providence, Rhode Island, took the postal service's unofficial creed to heart.

Joseph Rodriquez said snow was slowing down carriers Thursday, although he was having a "pretty easy day" as he made his rounds. He said it's important to get the mail out, even in blizzard conditions, because he delivers medication and checks.

Tens of thousands of power outages were reported due to the strong winds, depriving many people of heat.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker warned residents of prolonged power outages resulting from the storm. He said during a morning briefing Thursday that emergency officials are prepared to open shelters in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, where heavy wet snow and howling wind gusts posed the greatest threat of outages.

The strong winds could also make it difficult, if not impossible, for utility crews to use bucket trucks to quickly restore downed power lines.

More than 20,000 were without power in Massachusetts on Thursday afternoon. Scattered power outages were reported in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Maine reported about 4,000 outages.

Thursday night, 5,000 in Massachusetts remained in the dark.

"It's no good," Jerry Costa of Carver said.

The only light inside his house came from the news camera and an oil lamp in the living room.

"My wife is going to keep me warm," he said.

Carver residents without power are doing the best they can with no heat, no electricity and, in many cases, no water, because they rely on wells.

"I'm hoping the pipes don't freeze," Debbie Miller said. "If we lose power, we don't have water."

Wind-whipped snow quickly blanketed Central Massachusetts. 

"There are people already spinning out on Shrewsbury Street, a lot of people are stuck," Neil Kimball of Shrewsbury said. 

"Just watching the cars is kind of crazy, I can’t believe people come out unless they have to work," said Kayla Ford, who walked to get coffee. 

Several cars on Route 9 in Worcester failed to make it up the hill. 

Some tried backing down, another car backed over a median and got stuck, and a third car turned around and started driving the wrong way down Route 9 before a city de-icer truck helped the driver up the hill.

"It’s pretty slippery if you’ve got a small car," said. Joe Mungo of Worcester.

"This is awful, this is terrible, but it’s New England, what are you going to do," said Michelle Stenman of Worcester. 

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said more than 100 warming centers were open in 34 towns. Malloy said the state has 634 state plow trucks and 250 contractors working to clear the highways.

In Maine, the problem was a shortage of drivers to deliver heating fuel. Small independent fuel merchants, in particular, were overwhelmed by customers who do not have automatic refill service, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Angry seas at high tide created coastal flooding, leaving some waterfront residents stranded.

"So, I can't get home," said one resident. "My family is inside the condo and they’re warm and safe but they can’t get out."

The snowstorm ruined travel plans for many, with thousands of U.S. flights canceled. Airports in Boston and New York have been particularly hard hit, with more than two-thirds of flights in and out canceled.

Marcus Slaga was hunkered down at a hotel bar in Boston's Seaport District enjoying his third Guinness. The 44-year-old sushi chef's morning flight to Austin, Texas, was canceled in the whiteout conditions.

Linda Heuman and Amy Remensnyder were supposed to fly to Berlin on Thursday, but the flight was canceled. That left them stuck in their home in Providence, Rhode Island. Their plans for the rest of the day were simple: They were going to make some soup and maybe watch a movie.

Rail service was affected too. Amtrak planned to operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston on Thursday. And the MBTA's commuter rail was operating on a reduced schedule. Schedules are expected to return to normal on Friday.

When all is said and done, up to 15 inches of snow is expected across interior eastern New England up through Downeast Maine, up to a foot from Worcester up through Nashua, New Hampshire, and 6 to 9 inches across central New England.

Snow begins to wind down between 9 p.m. and midnight as the powerful coastal storm pulls away from New England and moves into the Canadian Maritimes. Snow showers will linger across the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Highs will range from in the 20s to upper 30s Cape.

Areas of blowing and drifting snow continue through the night as powerful and potentially-damaging west winds blow across our area.

Friday will feature sunny skies and bitter winds as Arctic air filters in, resulting in wind chills well below zero. Highs will be in the teens early, then falling to the single digits later.

Arctic air settles in for Saturday, with sunny skies with highs in the single digits. Dangerous wind chills continue.

Looking ahead to the end of the weekend, high pressure slides overhead, moderating temperatures somewhat. Sunday morning will start off bone-chilling before temperatures rise into the mid-teens across the north to lower 20s south.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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