You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

An unexpected bully of a storm

It has been a while since snow topping two feet was fluffed off as a nuisance, but people were out across the state, including Central Square in Cambridge.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

It has been a while since snow topping two feet was fluffed off as a nuisance, but people were out across the state, including Central Square in Cambridge.

More than a foot of snow fell in Boston and up to 2 feet in other parts of the state Friday, as a winter storm that exceeded most predictions pummeled the seacoast, toppled a house on Plum Island, and knocked out power to more than 9,000 homes.

But a month after a February blizzard delivered Boston its biggest winter whupping in a long time, this surprisingly strong snowstorm raised little fanfare.

Continue reading below

It didn’t have a hyped-up name, like Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon.

It came without breathless television dispatches from supermarkets down to the last loaf of butter-top wheat.

School buses rolled in Boston.

And the Interstate 93 morning commute was an endless traffic jam, like any other day.

It was just a late winter snowstorm, with more snow than expected. And other than in areas of flooding on the coast, where some faced real hardship and property loss, we shrugged, shoveled out, and went to work, two days after a little slushy drizzle closed down the nation’s capital.

On Friday, we were New Englanders again.

“At this point in the winter, this is a nuisance storm, not an emergency,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said. “And we are managing it.’’

It has been a while since snowfalls topping 2 feet were fluffed off as a nuisance, but this massive storm left Massachusetts residents more perturbed than panicked.

During last month’s Snowtastrophe, Patrick responded by forbidding motorists from driving on the public streets. It proved a wise precaution, as the blizzard brought an authentically hazardous combination of savage winds, bitter cold, heavy snow, and white-out conditions.

On Friday? He suggested hanging around for dessert and a cappuccino at the nearest bistro.

“It’s a good day if you can, if you work in town, to go out on a long lunch and spend time before you head home,’’ Patrick advised. “Use your common sense. . . . Be patient. Take it slow on the roads.”

The storm broke the March 8 snow record in Boston, measured at Logan International Airport, which received 10.2 inches of snow in a 24-hour period on Friday, and about 13 inches total for the storm, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton. The previous March 8 record was 8 inches, in 1941.

The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory in Milton appears to have received the most snow in the state, with 29 inches. Holden, in Central Massachusetts, logged 24.4 inches, with Weymouth close behind at 24.1 inches, according to reports collected by the National Weather Service. The upper Cape was widely spared, receiving only 3 to 5 inches.

Tow trucks were busy Friday morning pulling lead-footed drivers and their cars out of ditches, but the MBTA managed the morning commute with just a few snarls. It had shut down during February’s blizzard.

“It was actually a pretty good morning for us, all things considered,” said MBTA spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

The storm was far more damaging along the coast. On Plum Island, where major storms have become synonymous with destruction and heavy erosion, one home was toppled onto the beach, four others were so damaged that they were expected to be condemned, and many others remained in jeopardy.

“If you only had one storm, the damage wouldn’t be so dramatic, but we’ve had so many storms back-to-back that it’s eating away at the sand,” said Kathy Connors, who lives between two of the houses destroyed in the storm. She and many of her neighbors have long battled what they describe as “environmental red tape” in an effort to erect permanent protections against the waves.

“Last I heard, it’s still a constitutional right to protect your home,” she said.

In Scituate, Jim Farran, 80, a retired plumber, lost his car, refrigerator, and heating system in last month’s blizzard, after 3 feet of water flooded his basement on Oceanside Drive.

“This time we prepared ourselves,” he said. “Where the water came in before, we built up a barricade, on the back side, but Mother Nature decided to fool us, and this time she came from the ocean side.”

Still, it was not as bad as the February storm, he said. Oceanside Drive was underwater Friday, the wind rippling the surface. Two ducks waded down the street.

In Wellfleet, the staircase linking the Marconi and Nauset Light beaches to the sea was washed away after being damaged in last month’s blizzard, according to George Price, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

In Boston, T officials placed 45 bus lines on alternate snow routes Friday to avoid steep inclines. Two episodes during the morning commute temporarily interrupted traffic on the trains: A broken signal at Alewife and smoke on the roof of an E train on the Green Line at Symphony station.

To protect aging trolley cars from the elements, T officials ceased running trains on the Red Line’s Mattapan route throughout the morning, Smith said. They used buses instead.

Just before noon, another Red Line train became stuck on the inbound side of Harvard Square station and had to be pushed with another train into Central Square, which took more than 40 minutes.

“This is more snow than what we were anticipating, or really, than what anyone was anticipating,” Smith, the T spokeswoman, said. “Considering that, we ran pretty well.”

The storm system threw a curveball at forecasters, who correctly foresaw a lengthy storm and probable coastal flooding, but a minor shift in the wind pushed snow totals above predictions. Greater Boston received about 10 to 16 inches. Some towns south and west of the city saw 1 to 2 feet.

“Each storm has its own peculiarities,” said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “What was unexpected is the wind did shift a little bit. As the wind shifted to the north it drew down colder air. That slight shift wasn’t a radical thing, but it was enough to increase snow amounts.”

Massachusetts was fortunate, Foley said, to have faced this storm in March, when temperatures are generally warmer than in mid-winter.

“If we had temperatures in the 20s and we had the same situation, we’d be talking about mountainous snow,” he said.

Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark. Martine Powers, John R. Ellement, Billy Baker, and Brian Ballou of the Globe staff, along with Globe correspondents Sarah N. Mattero, Jessica Bartlett, and Lauren Dezenski contributed to this report.
Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week