Metro

At least 9 people dead amid rounds of snowstorms, cold

Mounds of snow surrounded commuters at an MBTA stop in downtown Boston on Thursday. Snow and rain are forecast over the weekend.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Mounds of snow surrounded commuters at an MBTA stop in downtown Boston on Thursday. Snow and rain are forecast over the weekend.

Nearly a month of snow, ice, and deep-freeze cold has claimed at least nine lives in Massachusetts, a Globe review shows, and rain and more snow is forecast to begin on Saturday.

Two people suffered fatal injuries when struck by snowplows. Another man died from a heart attack while shoveling. Others have perished in fires when hydrants froze or when storm-whipped winds made fighting blazes untenable.

And with nearly 100 inches of snow falling in Boston, causing rooftops to sag dangerously, 108 buildings have collapsed or been damaged in Massachusetts, the state’s Emergency Management Agency said Thursday. The prospect of rain during the weekend likely means still more roofs may crumble.

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Even drones have been pressed into service to monitor rooftops: In Somerville, the city hired an aerial cinematography company to inspect municipal buildings using drone aircraft.

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Snow is forecast to begin Saturday afternoon and turn into a wintry mix as temperatures rise at night, bringing rain that will soak into snow and re-freeze when bitter cold returns Monday.

“If you have 2 to 3 feet of snow sitting on your roof, and you get rain on top of that, it’s going to add to the weight,” said Hayden Frank, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security urged residents to clear off roofs in advance of the storm.

That storm could portend more troubles for the state’s sputtering transit system, which is slowly chugging back to normal after the four major storms that have battered the state since late January.

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On Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker said he erred by not engaging directly with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority sooner, as a quick succession of winter storms repeatedly shut down the system and stranded commuters.

In a conversation on WGBH-FM’s “Boston Public Radio,” Baker said he primarily relied on transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack for communications with the T, because of the chain of command, “but given the significant nature of what was going on and how big a deal this became, we probably should have gotten engaged” directly with the system earlier.

Baker’s senior staff will continue working with the MBTA and Keolis, its commuter rail operator, into next week, he promised.

“People from my office have been spending huge parts of their day every day down there, and will continue to do that into next week,” Baker said.

MBTA officials announced Thursday that, after 200 workers spent the day clearing Red Line tracks and switches between JFK/UMass and North Quincy stations, service to North Quincy was expected to resume Friday morning.

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Green Line B and E trains are also expected to resume service Friday, with Red Line service to Braintree returning Monday and the Mattapan trolley expected to be in service next Friday.

An arctic air mass is set to bring bitter cold and high wind gusts Friday, according to the National Weather Service, followed by the weekend storm, which could drop 1 to 3 inches in Boston.

Another storm with the potential to deposit significant amounts of snow is possible Wednesday, but forecasters said that it could veer out to sea.

The Weather Service cautioned that accumulated snow combined with drains clogged by ice could lead to some flooding, but the real-world outcome depends on how quickly snow melts and how much rain the region receives.

Massachusetts Army National Guard troops from the 181st Infantry worked to remove snow along the Red Line.
PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
Massachusetts Army National Guard troops from the 181st Infantry worked to remove snow along the Red Line.

After last weekend’s storm, a 57-year-old Brighton man began shoveling the snow near his home, where he died of a heart attack, officials said.

“Anyone that has to do any shoveling at all understands how incredibly difficult it is to stay on top of the amount of snow we’ve had,” said Dr. Huy Nguyen, interim executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

The Brighton man’s death prompted a warning from the city’s top health official.

“We are so used to snow and shoveling it that we don’t think of it as an exercise, but it’s a very, very strenuous exercise,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said anyone with heart disease, breathing problems, or anemia should leave the tough task of shoveling to someone more able-bodied.

The streets have also turned into danger zones, with snowplows taking to the roads like rarely seen before.

Twice, pedestrians have had lethal encounters with snowplows.

Shortly after a snowplow driver helped Cynthia Levine clear a parking spot earlier this month at a condo complex in Weymouth, he accidentally hit and killed the 57-year-old.

Five days later, in Medford, Cesar Moya, 60, a Whole Foods worker who lived in Chelsea, was killed when a plow struck him as he walked in the store’s parking lot at 300 Middlesex St.

“The biggest thing is . . . people driving cars, people walking have to be extra aware of their surroundings,” said Chris Besse, of Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Fire departments have asked residents to assist with digging out hydrants.

The dire consequences of trying to fight fires amid snow, ice, and wind became evident at least three times recently.

A fire in Waltham left a 75-year-old woman and her eldest son dead after the blaze tore through their single family home Monday, fanned by strong gusts of icy winds. Several feet of snow covered the yard and high winds made it challenging for firefighters to get ladders to the upper floors of the home.

“Each one of these fires has proven to be very difficult for firefighting operations, both a combination of the heavy snow conditions and the frigid temperatures that we find,” State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said.

Firefighters in Revere earlier this month were unable to save the elderly uncle of Deputy Fire Chief Chris Bright, who died in a fire on Reservoir Avenue. Two frozen hydrants and another buried in snow caused a delay in fighting the fire.

In Dorchester, a 62-year old woman died inside her home after a fire broke out Jan. 29. Firefighters said they had to dig a hydrant out of the snow, costing them minutes.

Fire officials highlighted another danger associated with snow and cold: carbon monoxide poisoning. They said residents should be sure to protect themselves by installing detectors in the home and by clearing snow from car pipes, chimneys, and vents.

But doing that can prove perilous: In Yarmouth, the body of 97-year-old Richard MacLean was found deep in the snow Jan. 28 lying near a carbon dioxide vent he was trying to clear.

Even trying to be helpful amid the snow can turn deadly. On Jan. 27, a 53-year-old New Bedford man died while using a snow blower to help neighbors.

Steve Annear, Nicole Dungca, and Akilah Johnson of the Globe staff and correspondent Aneri Pattani contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.