The Heat Is Online

March Snow Swamps New England

Storm saunters, then gets serious

18 inches of snow in Worcester area; tidal surge feared

The Boston Globe, March 6, 2001

After a long windup, what was expected to be among the worst blizzards in New England history finally delivered its pitch last night, walloping the region with 18 inches in parts of Worcester County and leaving coastal communities braced for this morning's high tides.

But the storm that was expected to blast 75-miles-per-hour winds and dump up to 2 feet of snow within a blur of a few hours was shaping up to be less, with the only serious storm-related injury reported in Charlton, where a train struck a snowmobile carrying a 38-year-old man.

Stephen C. Troio was in surgery last night at Medical City Hospital in Worcester after an 8 p.m. collision with a freight train.

But, the hype surrounding the storm - created by the difficulty meteorologists had in interpreting its chameleon-like qualities - shut down New England.

Still anticipating a storm of epic proportions, schools closed across the state and Governor Paul Cellucci's office extended a state of emergency indefinitely last night, giving a second day off to all non-essential state workers.

Though weaker than what had orginally been forecast, the still potent storm blanketed Central Massachusetts, the Merrimack Valley north of Boston, portions of northern New England, and parts of northwest Connecticut.

Greater Boston's totals were dropped down to the eight-inch range after above-freezing temperatures turned the higher predictions to slush.

Today, the state is deploying 22 state national guard trucks in various coastal towns to evacuate people if a storm surge warrants it. Power outages were scarce, despite dire predictions.

Flood warnings were issued from the Merrimack River to Woods Hole as high tides combined with high winds are expected to cause heavy beach erosion and flooding. Governors of New Jersey and New York also declared emergencies as had Cellucci, as more than 4,000 snowplows and salt spreaders fanned across the Bay State.

Nearly all scheduled flights at Logan International Airport and other airports are expected to be canceled again today, and hundreds of thousands of children will get a second day off from school. Some 45 senior citizens were evacuated to an emergency Red Cross shelter last night from a high-rise in Revere, where flooding is typical in coastal storms.

''I would admit that we blew the start time,'' said Rich Wilson, a meteorologist for Weather Services Corp. of Lexington. ''But the storm is coming. It's just a matter of who is going to get it.''

With the storm arriving late, emergency officials have warned people not to become complacent.

Shelters were opened throughout New England for people who might need to be evacuated because of rising waters.

Cellucci maintained a state of emergency, which means Massachusetts can request federal funds for its cities and towns.

Tractor-trailers are banned today on the Mass. Pike, which imposed a 40-miles-per-hour speed limit. Municipal elections scheduled for today in a dozen communities were canceled.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, opened its underground bunker on Route 9 in Framingham, where state officials stayed in constant touch with Cellucci, the National Guard, utility companies, the Red Cross, and the National Weather Service.

''This is still a very, very serious storm,'' MEMA's executive director, Stephen McGrail, said.

There was a good chance, he said, that the ice and snow would pull down power lines and cause blackouts in parts of the state.

Hospitals canceled nonurgent services yesterday and asked staff to spend the night. Working from plans much like those deployed before the Y2K computer scare of Jan. 1, 2000, hospital officials ordered emergency generators, put extra staff on call, and postponed elective surgeries.

As early as yesterday morning, employees of Newton-Wellesley Hospital were arriving with duffel bags, ready to stay overnight.

''A lot of people just came in with a bag packed - myself included,'' said spokesman Brian O'Dea.

Richard Serino, chief of Boston's Emergency Medical Service, said about half of his 300-member staff would work double shifts. He sent workers to Toys ''R'' Us and Kmart to purchase toboggans and plastic sleds that they could use as emergency rescue devices.

Throughout New England, communities braced for the worst.

In Boston, at least 300 cars were towed after snow emergency rules took effect at midnight Sunday. The city deployed 225 pieces of equipment to sand, salt, and plow the roads, and will send out more than 500 at the height of the storm.

Meanwhile, Mayor Thomas M. Menino was beginning to wonder whether the blizzard he'd prepared the city for was ever going to come. ''They should call the meteorologists and ask them what the blazes is going on,'' he said before the snow started flying. ''We've prepared for the worst, and it hasn't come yet.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 3/6/2001.

Snow, high winds batter New England
, March 6, 2001

A major winter storm with a reputation for closing schools and disrupting airline schedules only brushed most of the major cities of the Northeast overnight. However, heavy snow fell on interior portions of New England, and high winds and waves are battering coastal areas.

"Some are winning the cause, and some aren't," said Al Rule, a snowplow dispatcher in New Hampshire. "You go through with a plow, and 10 minutes later, it's all covered again."

More than 20 inches of snow stood early this morning in Keene, N.H., according to the National Weather Service.

People in coastal areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts worried about high winds and coastal flooding.

"The combination of astronomically high tides, and steady 50 mph winds is a combination that can cause severe beach erosion and structural damage," said Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

A state of emergency is in effect in Massachusetts. The National Guard is prepared to help sandbag and to evacuate coastal homes, if necessary.

About eight inches of slushy snow covers the ground this morning in Boston, but more significant amounts fell in the northern suburbs.

"I've already made beef stew, spaghetti and chicken soup," said Virginia Meuse, who lives on a peninsula north of Boston. "Now all we can do is ride it out."

Boston's Logan Airport is open, but more than 300 flights have been cancelled today. In Hartford, Conn., the airport is open, but there are no planes. They were moved out of harm's way as the storm approached.

State workers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire have been told to stay home today, and schools are closed across the region.

New York City is getting back to business today, after receiving less snow than expected. On Monday, public schools were closed and the city's major airports canceled most flights.

Schools are reopening, and crews have been clearing city streets during the night. About four inches of snow was reported at Kennedy International Airport, although the suburbs and parts of Long Island received greater amounts of snow.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he joked about the weather during a phone conversation Monday with Gov. George Pataki.

"When the governor called me and he said, 'How is the storm?' I said to him, 'What storm?' and I think he though I was getting a little crazy because they do have a big storm in Albany," Giuliani said.

Another foot of snow is expected to fall in Albany today, on top of the 15 inches already on the ground. Gov. Pataki activated the National Guard and ordered state highway crews on duty around the clock.

Snowfall totals

Tuesday morning

Paxton, MA 25"

Methuen, MA 22"

Elkins, WV 21"

Nashua, NH 20"

Chelmsford, MA 20"

Burlington, VT 18"

Portsmouth, NH 16"

Lowell, MA 15"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.