No mercy: Blizzard slams Boston area with 2 feet of snow

Snow in Hoboken, N.J.
A pedestrian walks on a snow covered road after an overnight snowstorm, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

By BOB SALSBERG and DENISE LAVOIE
Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Its winds howling at more than 70 mph, the Blizzard of 2015 slammed Boston and surrounding parts of New England on Tuesday with none of the mercy it unexpectedly showed New York City, piling up more than 2 feet of snow.

The storm punched out a 40-to-50-foot section of a seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts, badly damaging a vacant home. And in Newport, Rhode Island, it toppled and seriously damaged the USS Providence, a 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War sailing vessel, as the ship lay in drydock.

“It felt like sand hitting you in the face,” Bob Paglia said after walking his dog in Whitman, a small town about 20 miles south of Boston.

The snow in New England began Monday evening, continued all day Tuesday and was not expected to ease until late evening. And the bitter cold could hang on: The low temperature Wednesday is expected to be 1 degree, and forecasters said the mercury will not climb above freezing for the next week or so.

Much of the Northeast – particularly the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor of more than 35 million people – had braced for a debilitating blast Monday evening and into Tuesday after forecasters warned of a storm of potentially historic proportions.

The weather lived up to its billing in New England and on New York’s Long Island, which also got clobbered with heavy snow.

But in the New York City area, the snowfall wasn’t all that bad, falling well short of a foot. By Tuesday morning, buses and subways were up and running again, and driving bans there and in New Jersey had been lifted.

The glancing blow left forecasters apologizing and politicians defending their near-total shutdown on travel. Some commuters grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.

“I think it’s like the situation with Ebola: If you over-cover, people are ready and prepared, rather than not giving it the attention it needs,” said Brandon Bhajan, a security guard at a New York City building.

Nearly 21 inches of snow coated Boston’s Logan Airport by early afternoon, while nearby Framingham had 2 1/2 feet, according to unofficial totals. A 78 mph gust was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph one on Martha’s Vineyard, forecasters said.

Providence, Rhode Island, had well over a foot of snow. Sixteen inches had piled up in Portland, Maine, and 23 inches in Waterford, Connecticut. Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island, got about 2 feet.

“It feels like a hurricane with snow,” said Maureen Keller, who works at an oceanfront resort in Montauk.

Around New England, snowplows struggled to keep up, and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals.

Snow blanketed Boston Common, and drifts piled up against historic Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty stoked the fires of rebellion. Flooding was reported along some coastal communities.

Officials in cold-weather cities are keenly aware of the political costs of seeming unprepared or unresponsive to snow, and the blizzard poses an early test for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who took office three weeks ago. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh just finished his first year in office.

“So far, so good,” Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry said. “What’s important for a governor or a mayor is to appear to be in charge and to have a plan to finish up the job and to get the city and the state back to work.”

As the storm pushed into the Northeast on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters’ dire predictions. More than 7,700 flights were canceled, and schools, businesses, government offices and transit systems – including the New York City subway – shut down. But as the storm pushed northward, it tracked farther east than forecasters expected.

“This is nothing,” said Susanne Payot, a cabaret singer in New York whose rehearsal Tuesday was canceled. “I don’t understand why the whole city shut down because of this.”

While Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey had been warned they could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, New York City received just 8 inches, and Philadelphia a mere inch or so. New Jersey got up to 10 inches.

“You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn’t. Once again, I’m sorry,” National Weather Service forecaster Gary Szatkowski tweeted in Mount Holly, New Jersey.

A colleague, Jim Bunker, said forecasters would take a closer look at how they handled the storm and “see what we can do better next time.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his statewide ban on travel as “absolutely the right decision to make” in light of the dire forecast. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will look at whether storm procedures could be improved, but added: “You can’t be a Monday morning quarterback on something like the weather.”

Lavoie reported from Whitman, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Mark Pratt and William J. Kole in Boston; Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rhode Island; Sean Carlin, Michael Sisak and Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Jennifer Peltz, Kiley Armstrong, Ula Ilnytzky and Verena Dobnik in New York City; Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s