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Winter returns with deep snow in parts of Massachusetts

Mass. hit with March blizzard. By Taylor de Lench, Emily Zendt, and Scott LaPierre
Mass. hit with March blizzard. By Taylor de Lench, Emily Zendt, and Scott LaPierre

With spring less than a week away, a powerful winter storm lashed New England on Tuesday with gale-force winds and heavy snow that kept millions of people off the roads, canceled hundreds of flights, shuttered schools and businesses, and dampened hopes that warmer times are not far off.

Blizzard conditions were reported in Lawrence by the National Weather Service, but much of Greater Boston fared better than expected as snow turned to rain more quickly than many meteorologists had predicted.

Central Massachusetts and the Berkshires received the brunt of the snowfall, with 18 inches reported Tuesday evening in both Ashfield in Franklin County, northwest of Northampton, and Southwick in Hampden County, near Springfield.

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Boston, by contrast, measured 6.6 inches of snow at Logan International Airport as the eastern part of the state was buffeted by high winds. Wellfleet recorded a gust of 79 miles per hour, the highest in Massachusetts.

The storm made driving treacherous as snow began falling in thick, swirling sheets by late morning in Boston and elsewhere. A Longmeadow public works employee driving a town plow died Tuesday after the vehicle was struck by an Amtrak plow train, according to State Police. In New Hampshire, Ava Doris, the 16-year-old daughter of a Gilford police dispatcher, died when her car left the road and struck a tree in that town.

Nearly 47,000 customers remained without power in Massachusetts by 10 p.m., many of them in the Merrimack Valley and northeastern corner of the state.

Many commuters hunkered down at home. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials estimated that about 75 percent fewer people took the subway system during the morning commute, and Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the commuter rail, estimated that 80 percent fewer passengers rode the rails.

The MBTA shut down its ferry services and the Mattapan trolley, but chose to keep a regular subway schedule.

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Power outages in Medford and Malden created severe delays for Orange Line riders in the early afternoon. Keolis operated on a reduced schedule that did not include one-third of its regular weekday trains, and passengers still endured delays waiting for those trains that were running.

Still, MBTA general manager Brian Shortsleeve said public transit performed well in yet another major test of a system that had been crippled by the major winter storms of 2015. “The T was fully prepared for this storm,” Shortsleeve said.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said that even though the snowfall did not reach expectations, the wind, rain, and slush presented their own dangers. City schools will remain closed Wednesday, when a snow emergency is scheduled to be lifted at 7 a.m.

“I’d rather err on the side of caution than put our kids in harm’s way,” Walsh said. “We’re not getting the accumulations we thought we would have, but the conditions are as if we are getting 20 inches of snow.”

Walsh said more than 750 pieces of snow-clearing equipment converged on the city’s streets throughout the day, and that workers had put down 4,000 tons of salt in advance of the storm. The state dispatched more than 3,000 vehicles to clear the highways. The speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike was reduced to 40 miles per hour.

More than 800 flights were canceled at Logan, although a few airlines were able to get passengers out in the morning, according to Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Port Authority. The airport technically remained open, and a few flights were expected Tuesday night.

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According to the National Weather Service, only Lawrence achieved blizzard conditions in Massachusetts. A blizzard is defined as three hours of sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater, along with snow that reduces visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile.

About 25 miles to the east, Plum Island was cut off for hours Tuesday afternoon when gusts pushed two utility poles with live electrical wires over part of the road to the island. Elsewhere, a tractor-trailer jackknifed while traveling south on the Zakim Bridge.

The storm, so ferocious in many places, also was spectacular. On Winthrop Shore Drive, 12-year-old Danny Bright III ventured out to watch the storm with his father. Danny wants to be a meteorologist, but even he admitted that the fierce winds were a little much.

“I kind of can’t stand. It’s bad,” said Bright, a student at East Boston Central Catholic School.

In Scituate, longtime resident Jody Miller walked 2 miles to the town lighthouse, just as she does every snowstorm.

A man used a rake to clear a clogged street drain in front Arthur and Pat's Restauran, across the street from the ocean, in the Brant Rock section of Marshfield. John Tlumacki/Globe staff(

“I love it out here,” Miller said, even as she struggled to explain why. “I don’t know. I love New England. I love the weather. I just think it’s beautiful.”

On the North Shore, much of Cape Ann looked like a soggy, paste-covered ghost town. The few denizens who ventured outside included a handful of gawkers who watched thundering waves along Gloucester’s back shore, and a few intrepid dog walkers in the city’s Stage Fort Park.

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John Fratiello was unimpressed by the fierce winds as he strolled in the park with Cosette, his newly adopted Irish water spaniel.

“This is nothing,” he said, comparing it with the state’s record snowfall of 2015. “Two years ago, the snow was piled 20 feet high in this parking lot,” Fratiello said.

In downtown Northampton, near-whiteout conditions brought a biting snow that fell at a fast clip amid blustery winds. And yet, those who braved the weather could dine on sushi, pick up a croissant, shop at a gift store, and return home with a six-pack. All those stores were open.

A group of giddy middle-schoolers also turned a set of wide concrete steps at the Hampshire Courthouse on Main Street into a sledding track. At Tart Bakery, manager Robert Eastman said he did a brisk business.

“It’s a pretty typical Tuesday morning,” he said — except for the fact that those who came in were dripping with snow and many had come on skis.

North of the state line, a different scenario unfolded. The storm blew into New Hampshire on Town Meeting Day, and dozens of municipalities postponed voting. Another Granite State casualty of the storm: The liquor stores closed at 3 p.m.

A woman held onto her hat at Court Street in Boston. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Nicole Dungca, John R. Ellement, Martin Finucane, Felice J. Freyer, Cristela Guerra, Kay Lazar, Andy Rosen, Sean Smyth, and Lisa Wangsness of the Globe staff, and Globe correspondents Maddie Kilgannon and Laurie Loisel contributed to this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@
globe.com;
Laura Crimaldi at laura.crimaldi@globe.com.

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