Another wintry blast, another day of staring at the world through frosted glass, darkly.
As the sixth snowstorm in three weeks began its assault on a winter-weary region on Valentine’s Day, airlines canceled hundreds of flights out of Logan Airport, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority planned to shut down completely, and snowy side streets of South Boston were reconfigured into one-way thoroughfares to reduce congestion.
The storm, which is expected to become a blizzard, is forecast to dump as much as a foot of snow on Boston, which is already struggling with almost 80 inches for the winter, and dashed hope of romantic evenings for some diners, as local restaurants saw a spate of snow-related cancellations.
“People don’t want to make the trek into the city,” said James DiMartino, manager at Lucca Restaurant & Bar in the North End. Cancellations started coming in Friday night, and by Saturday, Lucca had lost about 100 reservations. He hopes to make up the lost business throughout the rest of the week, but acknowledged that might not happen, given that more snow may be on the way.
“We will see,” said DiMartino. “It’s been a rough month.”
By early Saturday afternoon, Tresca, a high-end Italian restaurant in the North End, had already seen a 10 percent drop in reservations for one of the busiest nights of the year, and Legal Sea Foods simply postponed its holiday offerings until March.
At The Fireplace in Brookline, however, owner and chef Jim Solomon took a different approach: He was planning to bring Valentine’s Day dinner to his customers, delivering for the first time in 14 years.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got a Ford truck, a willing wife, and a special Valentine’s menu,’ ” said Solomon, who said he has seen only a few cancellations. “So I thought we’d have some fun with it.”
In an afternoon news press conference, Governor Charlie Baker strongly urged people to stay off the roads as the storm intensifies, though he did not issue a travel ban. He called this blizzard a “Cinderella storm.”
“Everybody should be able to go out tonight and enjoy the evening as long as they get home by midnight,” he said.
A blizzard warning that went into effect in Eastern Massachusetts Saturday afternoon was expected to last until 7 a.m. Monday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson. Worcester and Greater Boston, including the city, can expect up to a foot of snow. The North Shore might see slightly more, Simpson said, while Western Massachusetts was expected to get 4 to 6 inches.
As of 10 p.m. Saturday, the storm had not hit blizzard status, but was still expected to do so by Sunday morning, according to the weather service. Snow is expected to accumulate 1 to 2 inches an hour in the hardest-hit pockets.
The storm hit a lull around 10 p.m. in certain areas of the state, according to the weather service. In Taunton, for example, the National Weather Service reported 5.6 inches of snow as of 10:30 p.m., with clear skies before the second half of the storm was expected to hit. By midnight, Boston had received just over 3 inches.
The snow was expected to be at its heaviest in the predawn hours, Simpson said, then begin to taper off in Western Massachusetts late Sunday morning and end in Greater Boston by midafternoon. Snow on the North Shore and Cape may last longer.
“Even though the snow will be tapering off [Sunday] afternoon, you will still get the drifting,” said Simpson, noting that it could cause dangerous driving conditions.
As of midnight Saturday into Sunday, this month became the snowiest on record in Boston, hitting 45.5 total inches, according to the National Weather Service. The last record was 43.3 inches in January 2005.
The city also entered its 7th snowiest recorded winter with a total of 82.7 inches, a weather service official said.
As the snow ends, temperatures and wind chills are expected to drop dangerously low.
“We want to emphasize to the public to take this seriously,” Simpson said. “We haven’t seen this in a while.”
The leftover fluffy and light snow from the storm could be swept up in the high winds, reducing visibility and potentially creating “near white-out conditions,” said meteorologist Matthew Belk of the weather service.
Wind gusts were expected to reach about 50 miles per hour in coastal Massachusetts, Simpson said, and 70 miles per hour on the Islands and the outer Cape. Power outages were also possible, he said.
Temperatures in the eastern part of the state were expected to dip as low as zero, with windchills of minus 20. The western part of the state will have temperatures at 10 below zero with wind chills as cold as minus 35, Simpson said.
Sunday morning, tides come in between 7 and 9, according to Simpson, and flooding will be a concern at Plum Island, Scituate, and around Sandwich. Flooding is also a possibility in Boston, he said.
Officials at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station announced a decision to shut down the plant in preparation for the storm.
“We are following plant procedures to prepare for a potential loss of offsite power or the grid’s inability to accept the power Pilgrim generates,” spokeswoman Lauren Burm said in a statement. “As always, safety is our number one priority, and there is no threat to the safety of plant workers or the general public.”
Crews in Boston and beyond were out in full force Saturday, hauling truckloads of snow off clogged streets, dumping tons of salt on the roads, thawing train tracks, and melting snow in the gigantic snow farms that have been set up.
In Boston, the Department of Public Works labored continually to remove truckloads of snow. The city had four snow melters operating in snow farms, 600 pieces of equipment ready to begin plowing, and 15,000 tons of salt on hand. A snow emergency began at 10 p.m., with ticketing and towing starting at midnight.
Some streets narrowed by snow in South Boston became one way. Even-numbered streets will be one way going westbound and odd-numbered streets will be one way going eastbound. Streets that are currently one way will maintain their original direction, and main arteries will remain two-way streets. The new traffic pattern will stay in effect until April 1.
At his news conference, Baker asked residents to be aware of snow buildup on rooftops, as the unprecedented snowfall has led to a number of collapses.
Cape Ann, Cape Cod, and the Islands are expected to be hit hard by the wind and potential floods, Baker said.
Six other states have provided assistance with snow removal, he said, and about 600 National Guard soldiers will be operating heavy equipment and prepping for high-water rescue operations on the coast.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation crews have been out clearing roads, shoulders, on- and off-ramps, and other areas, but spokesman Michael Verseckes said that “even with constant attention and plows, snow kind of creeps into the travel lanes.”
The department is “at or very close to” its annual snow removal budget ceiling of about $100 million, he said.
The storm was expected to snarl traffic not just on the roads, but on the rails and in the air. By Saturday afternoon, Massport said more than 300 Sunday flights had been canceled, and passengers should expect major delays.
“We couldn’t wait to get out of here, that’s for sure,” said Lilly Gagliardi, who stood in Logan Saturday a Logan terminal Saturday wearing a black sun hat, wedge sandals, and blue anchor earrings, waiting with her husband, Anthony, and two sons to depart to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. They were lucky: Their flight was listed as on time.
“It’s quiet here,” Anthony Gagliardi said. “I was a little nervous when we pulled up. I was like, ‘I hope they didn’t cancel all the flights.’ ”
For Sunday, the MBTA canceled all bus, ferry, subway, and commuter rail service to ensure the safety of customers and employees, and to allow crews to keep clearing snow and ice from tracks, the third rail, and switches, according to officials.
“The projected heavy snow and high winds will significantly inhibit the MBTA’s ability to deliver safe and reliable service,” the transit agency said on its website. “Trees and power lines could come down, and visibility will be hampered. Additionally, the MBTA is concerned that a train could break down between stations, resulting in a track right-of-way evacuation that would put customers, employees, and emergency responders at risk.”
A decision about the status of service for Monday will be made Sunday, the MBTA said.