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Mayor Wu declares snow emergency starting at 9 p.m. Friday ahead of ‘intense, dangerous’ storm

Space savers appeared around South Boston during a storm in December 2020.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday declared a snow emergency starting at 9 p.m., ahead of a storm that could bring more than 2 feet of snow to some parts of Eastern Massachusetts.

“This has the potential to be a historic storm, a huge one,” Wu said during a City Hall briefing Friday morning. “The National Weather Service has already issued a blizzard warning for Boston, and we are expecting as much as 18 to 24 inches of snow and 40 to 50 miles-per-hour winds. This is likely to be an intense, dangerous storm with heavy snow, high winds, and whiteout conditions.”

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Wu said that in light of the emergency, the “safest place” to be during the storm is inside.

“If you must travel, please bundle up and dress warmly and take the T if at all possible,” Wu said, adding that a parking ban along major arteries takes effect at 9 p.m. Friday. All vehicles parked on a posted snow emergency artery will be towed to allow for snow clearing operations.

The MBTA tweeted Friday morning that at least one subway line was already being affected by the storm before the first snowflake had even fallen.

On its website, the T said Friday that depending “on the severity of a storm, T service may be affected. For service updates immediately before, during, and after a storm, check this page.”

Wu said during Friday’s briefing that residents with cars can find free and discounted parking garages across the city online at boston.gov/snow.

“Boston residents with a resident sticker can find a list of free and discounted garages here,” an earlier statement from Wu said. “[A]nd parking at participating garages will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Discounted parking starts two hours before we declare a snow emergency, and ends two hours after lifting the emergency.”

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On Friday, Wu said, “During the snow emergency, parking is not allowed in Boston Public School lots. Space savers will be allowed, except for in the South End. Once a snow emergency ends, you’ll have 48 hours” to remove the parking spot savers.

Wu said the city has also replenished its salt supply and that the Department of Public Works has hundreds of pieces of equipment on standby to help with snow clearing.

The mayor reminded residents that property owners are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks around their properties within three hours of the snowfall ending. Clearing snow and ice from private property onto the street or sidewalk is prohibited, she said.

“Be cautious and look out for signs of overexertion” while shoveling, Wu said. “Chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting. Please call 911 if those symptoms don’t resolve. And if you see anyone in the cold who looks like they might be immobile, disoriented, or underdressed, please call 911 as well.”

Wu was joined at the briefing by several officials including Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Lanita Cullinane.

“Of course during this [storm] period, special attention will be given to public safety violations, to include blocking of fire hydrants, parking within fire lanes, double parking, and parking within 20 feet of intersections,” Cullinane said. “All on-duty personnel will be alerted to traffic control problems, flooding, trees down, broken windows. And they will pay special attention to businesses in the area ... for the prevention of vandalism or looting that may occur because of opportunities presented during this emergency.”

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Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Wu’s chief of streets, cautioned during the briefing that the recovery from the storm won’t be instantaneous.

“I do want to take a minute to set some expectations,” Franklin-Hodge said. “This is not a typical storm. ... This has the potential to be one for the record books, and we should not expect to be back to everything, back to normal the minute the snow stops falling.”

Franklin-Hodge said the city has 164 pieces of city-owned snow management equipment, with the ability to put more than 800 pieces on the road with the help of contractors.

“While we are prepared for this storm, some forecast models are predicting snowfall rates in excess of two to four inches an hour at times,” he said. “We do not expect that we can maintain bare pavement on the roads during these peak intensities. Crews will be working continuously to minimize the amount of snow accumulation and will then clear the streets once the snowfall rates have subsided.”

And if you must drive, Franklin-Hodge said, don’t crowd the plow.

“Drive slowly and leave plenty of room for our crews to work safely,” he said.

Blizzard conditions are expected in much of Eastern Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island, the National Weather Service said Friday. The warning is in effect from midnight Friday through early Sunday morning.

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This breaking story will be updated.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.