Boston parking ban lifted, schools set to reopen
Boston finally lurched toward normalcy Tuesday after a debilitating blizzard, ending a 102-hour-long parking ban on major streets and announcing that public schools would reopen for the first time since the storm struck.
Near springlike temperatures began melting snow mountains into lakes of slush. Waterlogged and unshoveled sidewalks forced scores of pedestrians into plowed streets, where they walked on black asphalt with briefcases and grocery sacks, slowing traffic.
The end of the parking ban brought a glint of hope for frustrated drivers, who suddenly had thousands of open spaces. The city’s 57,000 public school students were scheduled to return to classrooms Wednesday morning, to the relief of educators eager to return to lessons and parents who had simply lost patience. School officials warned, however, that buses may be late.
“We are ready, but we acknowledge there still are some challenges,” said the school district’s transportation director, Carl Allen. “Traffic might still be a bit slow. . . . Streets are narrowed in some places.”
About a dozen of the most experienced drivers navigated school buses around snow-lined city streets to test out routes and identify potential problems.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who had apologized to residents whose streets remained impassible, said Tuesday that crews did “great work” through the night, when front-end loaders and dump trucks removed thousands of loads of snow clogging curbs and corners.
“We continue to widen roads, make our schools safe for students, and respond to residents’ concerns about residential areas,” Menino said in a statement.
It will take time to gauge the full impact of almost 25 inches of snow in a single storm.
Governor Deval Patrick said Tuesday that officials may know by the end of the week whether the state can apply for federal aid to offset damage across the state.
“We’re obviously very keen to get those numbers,” which will determine whether federal aid is possible, Patrick said.
The MBTA’s chief operating officer, Sean M. McCarthy, told the Globe he has no regrets about the T’s two-day shutdown during the blizzard. Closing the T allowed the system to get back up and running after the storm without having to repair buses and trains damaged by the storm, McCarthy said.
An estimate on how much the blizzard cost the MBTA will be available by the end of this week.
By Tuesday evening, six bus lines were still operating alternate snow routes, down from 42 on Monday morning.
Across Massachusetts, about 20,000 Massachusetts utility customers were still without power Tuesday evening, down from a peak of more than 420,000 in the storm’s immediate aftermath. National Grid had roughly 4,000 customers without electricity, down from 170,200. A spokeswoman said the utility still expected to restore power to nearly all remaining customers by midnight.
NStar had about 16,000 customers without power, down from 250,000. A spokesman said the utility expected to resolve all outages by Thursday.
During the parking ban, Boston issued nearly 6,900 citations and towed almost 650 vehicles to make way for plows. More than 500 property owners had been fined a total of at least $25,650 by Tuesday morning for failing to adequately shovel their sidewalks or for throwing snow into the street.
The warm temperatures may have given people a false sense of the season. Another snowstorm may brush Boston Wednesday, but it appears the system will pass offshore and dust Eastern Massachusetts with 1 to 2 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Another coastal storm may arrive over the weekend, and unseasonably cold weather will mark the beginning of next week, the service said.
The weekend blizzard presented a unique challenge for the city, officials said, because the snow fell with such a fury as winds gusted near hurricane strength.
“This happened so fast. We were getting 2 to 3 inches of snow an hour,” said Boston’s director of emergency management, Rene Fielding. “Crews were out there, but it was difficult to keep up.”
Over the past two nights, city crews attacked the snow with front-end loaders and dump trucks. Some teams focused on preparing the city’s 125 school buildings, removing massive snow berms from entryways and areas where students congregate. Others hit bus stops.
A second focus was clearing mounds of snow piled on curbs along Boston's 22 major arteries where parking had been banned. Overnight Monday, the workers cleared in-bound lanes. The plan overnight Tuesday was to dredge out-bound lanes.
The third focus was to hit side streets and other roads that had been impassable since the storm. When work started Monday night, crews had a list of 78 clogged streets. By dawn, the number was down to 20 streets, Fielding said.
As inspectors surveyed blocks during the day, the list of side streets that needed attention grew to roughly 50 as crews started work overnight Tuesday, said city spokeswoman Dot Joyce.
“The mayor’s office will conduct an after-action review, as they do with all major emergencies in the city, to find places for improvement,” Joyce said. “That will take time, and first we must finish the job before that begins.”
On snow-socked Oak Street in Chinatown, a plow finally scraped the pavement before dawn Tuesday, according to resident Daniel Blasi, 41. It was the first plow to hit the street since Friday at 3 p.m., he said.
“My street was cleared of snow at 4 a.m. this morning — better late than never,” Blasi wrote in an e-mail Tuesday, adding later, “It would have been more welcome if it had come earlier.”