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Calls flood Boston hotline as blizzard ramps up

More than 1,000 people had already called the city of Boston’s hotline by mid-morning with questions related to the blizzard, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news conference today just as the storm was beginning to hit the city.

The mayor called the hotline, which called in extra volunteers, the nerve center of city government and told residents to call 617-635-4500 with their concerns.

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Menino was accompanied by his storm response team as he delivered an update about how the city plans to handle the storm.

“This is a large and powerful storm,’’ said Menino, who spoke at the city’s 24-hour constituent services office at City Hall. “However, we encouraged by the number of people who stayed home today and are moving their cars off the streets.”

The mayor’s commissioners in the fire, police, health, emergency management, and public works department all said they had extra staff to tackle the demands of the storm.

Menino’s public works chief said more than 600 pieces of snowplowing equipment and 34,000 tons of salt would be used to clear the streets. But she urged people to have patience.

“We ask people set their expectations that we can’t get out there and get it all done immediately,’’ Public Works Commissioner Joanne Massaro said. “We are going to be working through the weekend to clear the snow and make it safe. We just ask that people out there shoveling themselves — that they don’t make our job harder by throwing it back out in the street.”

The Boston Fire Department said it had added seven additional fire trucks from its reserves and eight rapid response vehicles. Boston Emergency Medical Services has added eight extra ambulances and 14 more rapid response vehicles, officials said.

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said his department would have hundreds of officers at the ready throughout the city.

“Stay off the streets. Stay in your homes until the storm is over,’’ the commissioner said.

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