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State of emergency in Mass.

Most driving banned, T shut, Guard activated as blizzard bears down

Massachusetts hunkered down and took cover Monday night as a mammoth storm arrived with a triple threat of winter weapons: up to 3 feet of snow, hurricane-force winds, and punishing flooding along the coast.

Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency at noon and banned all but emergency personnel from the roads beginning at midnight. Mayor Martin J. Walsh prohibited parking on major arteries starting at 6 p.m. And the MBTA prepared to shut down all bus, subway, commuter rail, and boat services at midnight.

“We are anticipating an historic Top 5 snowstorm,” Baker said at a news conference at the state emergency bunker in Framingham. “Whiteout conditions and treacherous roads will make driving anywhere extremely dangerous. . . . I can’t stress this part enough: Please stay off the roads.”

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The governor called up 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard, who awaited damage reports and orders about where to deploy.

Before the first flakes began falling Monday afternoon, thousands of plows and sanders readied for a days-long snow-clearing marathon on interstates and back roads from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. Schools across the state announced they would close Tuesday; in Boston, students were told to stay home Wednesday as well.

State offices also will be closed Tuesday, and postal service will be suspended for the day in Greater Boston.

Pedestrians struggled with the wind and snow in Copley Square in Boston.
Pedestrians struggled with the wind and snow in Copley Square in Boston.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe staff

At Logan International Airport, officials expected the last flight of the night, an international arrival, to touch down about 10 p.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of Eastern Massachusetts from 7 p.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Wednesday. Forecasters warned that the snow, whipped by treacherously high winds, would make travel “impossible and life-threatening.”

“In this storm, if people go out, they are basically putting their lives in danger,” meteorologist Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service said. “Once you get home, just stay put.”

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That advice resonated with both the weather-seasoned and the skittish as the evening commute began hours earlier than usual, clogging the main highways by midafternoon as light snow began to fall. By that time, many stores already had sold out of batteries, flashlights, and bread and milk as emergency officials predicted some communities could lose power for several days.

In flood-prone Scituate, residents along the 7 miles of coastline there were asked to evacuate, and a shelter was opened at 6 p.m. In addition, power on several coastal roads was turned off at 10 p.m. to prevent fires, Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said.

The worst of the storm was expected to last until late Tuesday morning, with snow falling as fast as 4 inches an hour in some areas, forecasters said. As much as 3 feet of snow was predicted in areas of Central and Eastern Massachusetts.

“Snowplows are not going to be able to keep up with that,” Dunham said.

By 9:30 p.m. Monday, 3.5 inches of snow had fallen in Centerville on Cape Cod and in parts of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

As the storm intensified, a woman and child battled with the wind at the North Quincy MBTA station.
As the storm intensified, a woman and child battled with the wind at the North Quincy MBTA station.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Along with the snow, winds were expected to reach 75 miles per hour on Cape Cod from Monday night into Tuesday, with the worst battering occurring on the exposed coastline of the outer Cape and Nantucket. A shelter had opened at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich, where 18 people, two cats, and four dogs had arrived by 8:45 p.m.

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“It’s a lot safer here with a group than home alone,” said Cathy Karras, a Red Cross official.

Boston was expected to experience gusts up to 60 miles per hour, forecasters said. Gale-force winds as strong as 50 miles per hour were predicted for Western Massachusetts.

The state transportation department had 2,500 pieces of equipment on state highways Monday afternoon, with about 405 in the Boston area, said Michael Verseckes, a department spokesman.

The transportation department has more than 4,000 pieces of snow-fighting equipment, about 250,000 tons of salt, and 425,000 gallons of liquid de-icer at the ready to help clear highways and state roads, Verseckes said.

About 4,000 workers for NStar and National Grid spent the past few days preparing for the storm and were ready to restore power quickly, said Krista Barnaby, spokeswoman for the Utility Workers Union of America, whose members are employees of both energy providers.

Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the National Guard would be deployed in hard-hit areas and used for tasks such as rescuing motorists and homeowners.

Judge said evacuation decisions will be made by local officials, not MEMA, but said residents in flood zones should pay attention to the forecasts and be prepared to act on their own.

“If you live in a place that is susceptible, really give some consideration to getting out,” Judge said.

National Grid workers cut the power to the Cedar Point section of Scituate because of safety issues stemming from the storm. Residents in that area were aware the outage would result.
National Grid workers cut the power to the Cedar Point section of Scituate because of safety issues stemming from the storm. Residents in that area were aware the outage would result.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

On Plum Island in Newbury, however, restaurant owner Gregg Pugh said he planned business as usual during the storm.

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“I’ll be open,” Pugh said Monday at the Plum Island Beachcoma. “There are enough islanders who can walk down if they get sick and tired of shoveling.”

The governor expressed confidence in the capabilities and common sense of emergency workers and residents.

“We are New Englanders, so this isn’t new to most of us,” Baker said at the midday news conference. He also described state officials, who coordinated their response with cities and towns throughout the state, as “experienced professionals who have seen this movie many times.”

The state travel ban had a variety of exceptions, including emergency workers, hospital personnel, private plow drivers, and the news media.

The decision to shut down the T, which serves an average of 1.3 million riders a day, underscored the severity of the storm. Beverly A. Scott, general manager of the T, said it would have been irresponsible to continue operating.

“There is absolutely no way that you could think you’d be trying to run service under those kind of conditions,” she said.

Before the T shut down, however, the Red Line experienced delays of up to an hour during the homebound commute because of a signal problem and disabled train at Harvard Square. A malfunctioning drawbridge in Beverly also caused significant delays on the Newburyport/Rockport commuter-rail line.

The T has shut down its service four times in recent years: during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects in April 2013, a massive blizzard in 2013, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

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Beginning at 10 p.m. Monday, tolls were waived until further notice on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Tobin Bridge, and harbor tunnels.

The T was not alone in cutting off service. As cancellations and closures rolled in for schools and workplaces, every form of public transportation was shut down. Hubway, the region’s bike-share operator, temporarily closed all its stations at 7 p.m. Monday.

Plows waited at the Allston toll booths Mondayevening.
Plows waited at the Allston toll booths Mondayevening.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

In Boston, cars that had not been moved from major roads were towed beginning at 8 p.m. City-run garages were opened for free for residents.

The storm was expected to taper off from west to east beginning late Tuesday evening, although snow showers might continue through early Wednesday. Temperatures were expected to drop to the single digits Wednesday night, creating dangerous conditions for people without power.

Baker said state offices and the MBTA were expected to reopen Wednesday but said those plans would be reevaluated as the storm progresses.

Late Monday night at South Station, official protocol yielded to the elements.

Transit Police said shuttles were available to transport homeless people to the Pine Street Inn, but Jack Taylor and his girlfriend, Christine, said they would prefer the relative comfort of the commuter hub.

“I have blankets,” Taylor said. “I’m afraid we’ll get separated at the shelter. I want to make sure my girl is OK.”

Transit Police Lieutenant Christopher Maynard relented.

“If that’s what they want to do, we’ll let them,” Maynard said. “We just want to make sure everyone is safe.”


Evan Allen, Travis Andersen, Laura Crimaldi, and Kathy McCabe of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Ellen Ishkanian, Aneri Pattani, and Jacqueline Tempera contributed to this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.