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Advance planning helps Mass. avoid worst from epic snowstorm

THE DIGGING out may still seem too burdensome, the concern for those who still lack power too pressing, the shock over reports of carbon-monoxide deaths too fresh to concentrate on the vast extent to which the preparations for an epic snowstorm paid off. But the fact that so many people are already getting back to work this morning, just two days after the system dumped 30 or more inches of snow in some areas, attests to the amazing work of thousands of meteorologists, snowplow operators, police and firefighters, utility workers, and elected officials.

This snowstorm, which is already becoming known as the Blizzard of 2013, will take its place alongside the Hurricane of 1938 and the Blizzard of 1978 in Massachusetts weather annals. But when people tell their grandchildren about this one, it probably will not be the harrowing old saga of stranded commuters, seaside communities caught unawares, families huddling without supplies, and local monuments toppling under the wrath of Mother Nature. The disruptions caused by this storm are still significant for areas that suffered from flooding and major power outages. But in general, the storm was handled well enough to put the grandchildren to sleep.


It started with the predictions. Aided by advanced computer modeling, meteorologists were able to create a stunningly accurate picture of snowfall amounts, wind speeds, and prospective dangers a full two days before the first flurries started to fall. With so much leeway, families were able to stock up on supplies; workers were able to finish any urgent business and cancel Friday’s meetings; schools were able to close in advance. As a result, there wasn’t the frenzy of activity that often precedes a storm, and thus far less chance of anyone getting stranded.

Then there was the good sense of Governor Patrick in instituting a travel ban from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon. That, too, kept motorists off the streets — under the threat of a year in prison — and freed up rescuers to focus on the seaside communities that were the first to feel the impact of the storm. Elsewhere, plows were able to clear major roadways without fear of impediments even as the storm took hold, making for a much quicker recovery.


Lastly, there was the spirit and cooperation of the people — a spirit that needs to continue in places where homes have been damaged and families have been displaced. Digging out will continue for a few more days at least. But when it’s over, Massachusetts should have every reason to be proud of itself.