New England digs out from big blizzard
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet of snow on Saturday, and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York's Long Island as a result of a howling storm that swept through the Northeast.
About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days. Roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of about 25 million people were impassable. Vehicles were entombed by drifts. Some people found the wet, heavy snow packed so high against their homes they could not get their doors open.
“It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet,” said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., for a landscaping company.
In Providence, where the drifts were 5 feet tall and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight, Jason Harrison labored for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, “has already paid for itself.”
At least five deaths in the United States were blamed on the overnight snowstorm. Among the victims was an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled on Saturday morning.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger has not passed: “People need to take this storm seriously, even after it's over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling.”
Not as bad as expected
Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine.
Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England received more than 2 feet.
Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of '78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all winter storms are measured.
By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth on the city's all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, securing the No. 2 spot in the record books there.
Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.
In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city “dodged a bullet” and its streets were “in great shape.” The three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. — were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.
Recovery under way
Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, a peak of about 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state.
By nightfall, utility crews had started to make significant progress in restoring power and bringing those numbers down.
Duquesne Light Co. sent workers to New York to help with the storm recovery, and those workers have since been dispatched to Connecticut, according to spokesman Joseph Vallarian.
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.
Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow. Snow was waist-high in the streets of Boston.
Life went on as usual for some.
In Portland, Karen Willis Beal got her dream wedding on Saturday — complete with a snowstorm just like the one that hit before her parents married in December 1970.
“I have always wanted a snowstorm for my wedding, and my wish has come true to the max,” she said.