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After storm, bitter chill is now a major concern

Boston expected to reach zero degrees overnight

The slow-moving nor’easter that pummeled Eastern Massachusetts over two days with arctic winds, extreme cold, and up to 2 feet of snow caused plenty of high anxiety but left little damage in its howling wake.

Relatively few power outages were reported in the region, Boston lifted its snow emergency at 5 p.m. Friday, and many coastal dwellers expressed surprise — and gratitude — that the storm had not created more havoc.

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However, some homes in Scituate and elsewhere on the South Shore had minor damage, and 10 people in Duxbury were rescued — without injuries — from five beachside residences by local police and the National Guard.

“There was so much water,” said Captain Rob Reardon of the Duxbury Fire Department. “It was up to my knees.”

John Blanding/Globe Staff

Saira Austin shoveled at her Gloucester home, digging out Friday from a big storm that hit the coast hard.

Voluntary evacuations were recommended in parts of Duxbury and Scituate, but many residents chose to remain in their homes.

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Governor Deval Patrick called the nor’easter, which reached blizzard proportions in some areas, a “mixed blessing” that caused no serious injuries but raised concerns because of dangerously frigid temperatures expected to continue into Saturday morning.

“The temperature is so extreme that it’s a hazard of a different kind,’’ Patrick said at a Friday afternoon briefing.

The temperature in Boston at 10:30 Friday night was 4 degrees, with a wind chill of 13 below, according to the National Weather Service.

The severe cold is believed to have caused burst pipes that led to flooding and evacuations at Emerson Hospital in Concord, the Prudential Center shopping mall, and a movie theater in Boston.

When a sprinkler at Emerson Hospital burst Friday afternoon, emergency room patients were moved to other areas of the hospital and ambulances were temporarily diverted to other facilities, according to Concord Fire Captain Tom Judge.

At the Prudential Center shopping mall in Boston, a burst pipe in the emergency sprinklers caused about 30 minutes of flooding, said Steve MacDonald, a Boston Fire Department spokesman.

Eva Mayo, a 19-year-old Boston University student who was shopping, said that “all of a sudden, tons of water started pouring from the ceiling. People were running around like crazy.” Mayo said about 4 inches of water accumulated on the floor, mostly in the hallways, but that some stores were affected.

The mall remained open, and no injuries were reported, MacDonald said.

The AMC Loews Theater at Boston Common was evacuated at 4:30 p.m. when a pipe burst, according to spokesman Ryan Noonan. The theater was closed temporarily.

Boston was expected to reach zero degrees or lower early Saturday morning, and the western suburbs were preparing for temperatures at 10 below zero. The National Weather Service warned that wind-chill readings could fall to 18 below zero before temperatures moderated later Saturday morning.

“We’re not used to this type of cold,” said Kimberly Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton. The record-low temperature for Jan. 4 in Boston is 4 below zero, set in 1981.

The cold prevented many people from enjoying the snow, which reached a storm-topping height of 23.8 inches in Boxford, acording to the National Weather Service. Essex County, where Boxford is located, measured the most snow in the state, with 23.5 inches in Topsfield and 20.6 in Manchester-by-the-Sea. In Boston, 15.1 inches were recorded at Logan International Airport.

Blizzard conditions were recorded in the coastal communities of Marshfield and Falmouth, Buttrick said, and wind gusts reached a high of 60 miles per hour in Hyannis. A blizzard is characterized by sustained winds or gusts of at least 35 miles per hour, heavy falling or blowing snow, and low visibility.

Many municipal officials said the region was spared widespread outages because much of the snow was dry and light. Wet and heavy snow is what tends to bring down power lines

About 600 customers lost power for less than an hour in Orleans, on Cape Cod, but that outage occurred because a front-end loader struck a utility pole during snow-clearing work, said Kevin Morley, spokesman for the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee.

Elsewhere in the state, only 69 outages had been reported by Friday afternoon, said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The MBTA experienced minor delays Friday morning because of mechanical and signal problems, and traffic around the region was slowed throughout the day as thousands of snow plows did their work.

Most schools were closed Friday, and many workers were told to stay home.

About 400 National Guard members were activated for the storm, said Lieutenant Colonel James Sahady, the Guard spokesman.

At Logan Airport, all runways were open by Friday afternoon. The volume of flights increased steadily through the day as airlines resumed their regular schedules.

The state transportation secretary, Richard A. Davey, said 3,400 pieces of snowplowing equipment had been deployed, but that many roads might remain icy with temperatures hovering in the single digits and lower. Road salt has no effect once temperatures drop below the 20s, he said.

Many coastal roads along the South Shore became flooded Friday after the noon high tide, the third astronomical high tide in a row.

In Scituate, harborside residents emerged from their homes Friday afternoon just as the sun began to peek out, assessing the damage, digging their cars out of the snow, and picking up debris strewn in the sand that had covered the roadway during the flooding.

Some damage was not insignificant: People had sea water in their basements, and others had lost wood or supports on their decks.

However, most homes escaped major structural damage. And residents agreed on one thing: At least it was better than the blizzard of 2013.

“It’s not as bad as last year,” said Cathy Minich, 40, who took a walk with her son and border collie to check the damage. And there was this silver lining: The power stayed on.

“When you think about how cold it was today, if we’d lost power — can you imagine?” Minich said.

Elsewhere in Scituate, MaryBeth Webb said she had been confident her house would stand up — after all, it survived the Blizzard of 1978 — but she was nervous that she and her car would be stranded in floodwater.

As she watched water surge into the streets, Webb said, she jumped into her car and drove to a high-ground parking lot to wait out the storm. Later, when she returned, about a foot of water stood in the basement. That discovery was much better than the shoulder-high water that had destroyed the space last year, she said.

In Ipswich, where about 2 feet of snow fell, Marty’s Donut Land remained open because it’s always open, midnight to noon. Since 1956, it’s only been closed three days — and one was when the owner died — so customers were streaming in, knowing they could count on a hot doughnut and cup of coffee.

“If we had a tornado and this building was standing, we’d be open,” said Gail Violette, who was working the counter. But she said just getting there from her house at the top of a hill had been an adventure. “It was really scary walking down the hill. I should have had my sled,” she said.

Tim Davis was also buying a huge assortment of doughnuts for his two teenagers snowbound at home, with cabin fever setting in. “I’m just trying to avoid a war, so I bought two of everything.”

The weather is expected to warm each day this weekend, according to the National Weather Service, and with temperatures expected to rise into the upper 20s Saturday afternoon and potentially shooting up into the 40s on Sunday and the 50s on Monday.

However, rain is predicted for Sunday night into Monday, followed by another arctic blast Monday night that might turn all that melting into ice.

On Tuesday, Buttrick mused, “you won’t be able to open your car in the morning.”

John R. Ellement, Martine Powers, Billy Baker, and Meghan Irons of the Globe staff, and Globe correspondents Jackie Tempera and Haven Orecchio-Egresitz contributed to this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.
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