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Record snowfall frustrates public and officials alike

Winter doldrums
(Boston Globe) Boston area residents woke up to an all-too-familiar snow scene this morning. By Scott LaPierre

The latest in a wearying succession of winter storms punished a snowbound region yet again Monday, bringing everyday life to a near standstill, leading to a shutdown of the MBTA and plans to dump snow in the Boston Harbor in a season that shows little sign of mercy.

As the snow wound down overnight, Tuesday promised little chance of a return to normal. Rail service on the MBTA was canceled for Tuesday, and Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency to aid in the recovery. A citywide parking ban remains in effect for Boston, and many area schools will be closed for a second day.


“This is an unprecedented set of circumstances that we’re working our way through,” Baker said at a late afternoon news conference.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh urged Boston residents to stay off the streets Tuesday and called on businesses to let employees work from home. Baker also asked nonemergency state employees who live or work in Greater Boston to stay home.

“I think it’s going to be a real long week in the city,” Walsh said. “It’s frustrating and people are going to be frustrated.”

The third major storm in the past two weeks shattered a longstanding snowfall record in Boston, bringing the staggering total over a 30-day span to about 6 feet. That topped the old mark, 58.8 inches, set in 1978. Since the latest storm began Saturday, Boston has received almost 22 inches.

With 2 to 3 feet of snow blanketing much of Eastern Massachusetts, driving became a white-knuckle adventure, and overburdened roofs buckled.

One person was killed when he was struck by a plow truck in Medford. Cesar Moya, 60, of Chelsea, was hit around 1:30 p.m. while walking in a parking lot at 300 Middlesex Ave., the office of the Middlesex district attorney said.


Moya was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died, the district attorney’s office said.

Authorities said he had just finished working at the Whole Foods Market bakery when he was struck by the plow truck, driven by a Fall River man working for Yerardi Landscape and Design of Medfield, the DA said.

Across the region, residents were once again forced to shovel out buried walks and driveways, piling snowbanks that much higher.

In Boston, vacant lots known as “snow farms” were nearly full, and melting machines could not keep up, prompting Walsh and other city officials to look toward the ocean as a last resort.

Under normal circumstances, state law prohibits dumping snow in public waterways because it carries salt and other contaminants. But the state allows the practice in circumstances when public safety is at risk, and Boston did it most recently in 2009.

“Obviously, these are very much extraordinary circumstances,” said Edmund Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s difficult to find a place for it and keep the public safe.”

Walsh said that while he expected some concerns to be raised about dumping snow in the ocean, public safety was his leading priority. “We’re talking snow like we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Environmental advocates expressed support for using the waterways to dispose of snow given the extreme circumstances.

“It’s good that it’s a last resort and not a first resort,” said Bruce Berman, spokesman for the advocacy group Save the Harbor, Save the Bay.


“If the mayor feels we need to do it, we’ll support him on it.”

Several other cities and towns across Massachusetts have notified the state that they plan to dump snow into the ocean or nearby waterways, including Salem, Marblehead, Lawrence, and Lowell.

About 70 percent of flights at Logan Airport were canceled Monday, and the MBTA said the rapidly accumulating snow made it “virtually impossible to keep rail lines operational.” A Red Line train was stranded for about two hours in Quincy after a power failure.

Baker seemed to be losing patience about the widespread delays, and he blasted the transit agency for its performance yesterday.

“The public transportation system has to work,” the governor said in an unusually blunt public rebuke. “Let’s face it, this can’t happen again.”

Before the evening commute Monday, the MBTA said it was shutting down all rail service at 7 p.m.

“We are disappointed, we are apologetic, we are sorry, it is all of it in spades,” said Beverly Scott, general manager of the MBTA. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”

Scott said the cumulative damage from a rapid succession of storms had taken a heavy toll.

“With the accumulation of the snow, you get some of it down, but none of it has been able to go into a full recovery mode because every time we get recovering, we get pelted with another storm,” she said.

Partial building collapses were reported in Quincy and in Rockland, where eight people escaped a commercial building without injury.


“They said it sounded like a freight train,” Rockland Fire Chief Scott Duffey said.

In Quincy, the collapsed building was being used for production of a movie about the US Coast Guard, officials said.

Traffic in and around Boston was generally light, and no major accidents were reported. Baker had urged drivers to stay off the roads Monday and called on businesses to let employees work from home. There was no state travel ban.

Only a few thousand people lost power, most of them in Randolph.

While some people took the day off or were able to work from home, many had no choice but to make their way into the city.

Kenney Dorcely, 25, who works as a cook in Jamaica Plain, was among some 40 passengers stranded on a morning Red Line train.

“Everything is a headache nowadays,” he said.

Others were taking the weather in stride. It is New England, after all.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Crystal Wall said. Snow “comes with the territory.”

On wind-swept Quincy Shore Drive, Fouad Boutabi spent most of Monday afternoon staring out the window from his Gulf service station. Only about a dozen motorists stopped by.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Boutabi said.

At South Station Monday evening, hundreds of people stared up at a display board marked “Delayed Delayed Delayed Delayed” next to the outbound commuter rail trains. Hope was at a premium.


“I am waiting for the 4:20 Kingston train. It’s now 5:46 and it is not even on the board anymore,” said Matty Roumacher, a 26-year-old from South Weymouth who works downtown. “I left work early to try and catch this train, and they canceled the train. I could’ve stayed at work.”

Eric Moskowitz, Sean Murphy, Taryn Luna, John R. Ellement, Andy Rosen, Nicole Dungca, Jan Ransom, Meghan E. Irons, David Scharfenberg, Joshua Miller, and Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.