QUINCY — By Saturday afternoon, the charm of the snow was long gone. Their homes dark, residents were cold and storm weary. But mostly just cold.
Quincy was one of the worst-hit communities around the state. On Friday between 10 p.m. and midnight, the storm knocked out power to nearly every one of the 92,000 residents in one of the state’s largest cities, according to city and National Grid officials. Emergency generators kept the lights on at Quincy Medical Center and nursing homes.
With the power, for many, went the heat.
On Havilend Street, Jim Evans shoveled out his car after 14 hours with no power, and made plans for his aging parents to stay in the one heated room in his house. A few blocks away, the elder Jim Evans and his wife, Helen, were huddled on the couch, wrapped in layers of sweatshirts and afghans, glued to their transistor radio, hoping for updates about the power.
“Without the television, I don’t know what’s going on,” said Helen, 85. “You’re kind of out of the world, it seems.”
By around 5 p.m. Saturday, more than 200 people had flocked to a shelter at Quincy High School, some to sleep on cots set up in rows in the gym, some for a hot meal, and some just to stay warm.
Fire Lieutenant Ralph Blight said the shelter opened at 8 p.m. Friday to take in families from flooded neighborhoods.
“It started with about 25 people but then power was lost throughout the city and people have been trickling in ever since,” Blight said. “Without heat they couldn’t stay home.”
Throughout the afternoon Saturday, police, fire, and ambulance crews brought in a steady stream of people.
Nicholas Hubby, who lives in the Marina Bay apartments and uses a wheelchair, said that when the lights went out in his building Friday, he had to be carried out by an ambulance driver in the darkness.
“We had no emergency lighting in the stairways, in the hallways, and no elevators,” said Hubby,at the shelter. “I had to be carried downstairs, all the way down five stories.”
Others were driven to the shelters by the waves: flooding in coastal areas such as Merrymount, Houghs Neck, and Squantum forced dozens from their homes.
Houghs Neck resident Annemarie Smith said that when her husband, John, saw water pouring over the sea wall across the street from their home on Friday night,he abandoned his plans to plow the driveway.
“He came into the house and said, ‘Let’s go. We’ve got to get out of here.’ ”
They called two close friends to evacuate with them, but when they tried to drive out, they found the roads flooded. They ended up calling police.
At the emergency operations center in the Parks Department Building, Mayor Thomas Koch helped direct police, fire, and public works operations.
“So far, so good,” said a tired-looking Koch. “There’s been damage to property and I don’t want to minimize that, but nothing like the devastation we faced in the Blizzard of 1978.”
The city put 115 trucks — many of them private contractors — on the streets to plow 275 miles of roadway. The city opened a second emergency shelter Saturday afternoon at the Kennedy Center on East Squantum Street. Koch said he expected up to 100 people to take refuge there due to a lack of heat in their homes.
“It’s been hard on people but, thank God, no one was hurt that we know of,” he said.
Koch said the main electricity transmission line knocked out Friday evening had been restored by about noon Saturday and that power had come back at Quincy Medical Center. But as of Saturday evening, only slightly more than half of the city’s customers had seen their lights come back on, according to the National Grid website.
While the less fortunate waited for their turn Saturday, they passed the time shoveling out and checking on neighbors.
“No heat, no electricity, too much snow,” said Paul O’Neil, 60, standing in front of his home on Rice Road.His neighbor, he said, is an elderly woman, but he couldn’t get into her home to check on her because of the snowdrifts blocking her door. “I’m concerned about her.”
Not everybody, however, was suffering in the cold. With no cars on the road, and snowplows making mountains 15 feet high, children were racing around tugging sleds and throwing snowballs.
“I’ve never seen snow before,” shouted 9-year-old Adriana Becker, who was visiting from San Diego, where, she said, the temperature once dropped to 49 degrees.
Becker and her cousin, 8-year-old Emily Pearl from Cape Cod, were busy making plans for a snowman with an icicle for a nose to guard their snow fort. All Becker knew about snow, she said, she had learned from television — and she was very surprised to find out how wet and lumpy it was in real life.
“I thought it would be puffy,” she said. “And I thought it would be a little less cold.”