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Warnings heard, a hush falls over Boston during storm

A lone pedestrian made his way across Congress Street in Post Office Square at 6 p.m. on Friday.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A lone pedestrian made his way across Congress Street in Post Office Square at 6 p.m. on Friday.

At first, they danced in the flurries, pirouetted on the Common, slid along merrily on the lightly dusted sidewalks of the Back Bay, all the while snapping pictures as the city donned a graceful white cloak of snow.

But as the icy bite of the Blizzard of 2013 took hold in Boston, the snow revelers fled, leaving a vacant tundra of empty squares and abandoned thoroughfares that would have felt peaceful if not for the roar of the nor’easter.

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The normally jam-packed tunnels of Interstate 93 were empty, luminescent tubes. City Hall Plaza could have been Moscow, Fort Point Channel might as well have been the Bering Strait, and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway became a Great White Way. Navigating city streets by dog sled would have been easier than walking or driving, except the dogs might have backed out.

One of the defiant few was Alpha Bah, a taxi driver who said he needed to earn $140 a day to meet the expenses of operating his vehicle. Asked about Governor Patrick’s ban on travel, Bah said humbug.

“I’m in the private sector,” he said, as he maneuvered through the slushy, empty streets of the Seaport. “Is Governor Patrick going to pay my bills?”

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So how much snow could Bah handle? “Two feet,” Bah boasted.

Those hardy souls who had to be out — or chose to stay out — bent and bowed and tried not to be blown over as the storm flung stinging tendrils of wind and snow into every street, alley, and cul-de-sac.

“I just have to get to work,” said Alvaro Duenas, an employee of Rustic Kitchen, a Back Bay restaurant that he said had not closed and planned to put up employees in a hotel.

Phil Roberts, manager of the Thinking Cup coffee shop across from the Common, had already put on his thinking cap about employees who needed to use public transportation. They had been dismissed. He and another worker live nearby, so they stayed. Every minute or so the phone would ring.

Without waiting for the question, Roberts would say: “Yes, we’re open, we’re not sure how late.”

The storm showed up peacefully enough, sprinkling light snow Friday morning that lured winter lovers onto Boston Common.

Natcha Phataraprasit, a senior at Northeastern from Thailand, where it does not snow, was taking photos with friends, twirling in circles for a 360-degree pan of the winter wonderland.

Fans of Weather Channel reporter Eric Fisher snapped pictures as he displayed a yardstick by which he planned to measure the snowfall.

“We think that a foot is almost a guarantee, 2 feet is pretty likely, 3 feet is possible, maybe not in the city but just outside,” Fisher said.

Then the wind kicked up. A little before 1 p.m., one of the last commuter boats departed for Hingham from Rowes Wharf. The ungainly vessel is “terrible to handle” in a storm, said a captain who asked not to be identified. Though the full force of the storm was hours away, he said, 4-to-6 foot waves were buffeting the boat in the harbor.

Workers brushed and shoveled and scraped sidewalks along Atlantic Avenue, seemingly in vain. Each time they made a pass, the area they had just cleaned was covered in a new veneer of snow.

Some were out there not for themselves, but for a friend in need. As the storm picked up, Tracy Driscoll’s golden retriever led her along Boston Common. Not walking Coco, she said, was not an option. And Coco would need to walk again at night, when the winds were expected to blow their worst.

“I wouldn’t think of not going out,” Driscoll avowed. “I’ll just bundle up.”

Two Labradors, Charlie and Fritz, were also lucky in their owners. David Wells and Kate Pedersen are triathletes who thought nothing of jogging along with the dogs into the steely gusts that battered the vacated Theatre District. She said she is training for a half iron man in San Juan in March; he is training for an iron man in the summer in Florida. What is a blizzard next to that?

Then there was Jamie Goldring, a self-described “weather nerd.”

He planned to spend the night walking the city.

“I’m going to go see things happen,” Goldring said. “I’m going to go witness 10-foot drifts as they happen.”

As night fell, that had yet to happen. But, as predicted, the stinging winds ratcheted up to gale force and the snow flew with increased intensity. And slowly the inches began to add up.

David Filipov can be reached at dfilipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.
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