Thousands in the dark after another nor’easter roars through
About 160,000 homes and businesses were without power early Wednesday as Tuesday’s nor’easter lashed Massachusetts with high winds and swiftly falling snow, whipping up blinding blizzard conditions in some areas, including Boston, and prompting dozens of districts to cancel school on Wednesday.
“It’s really bad,” said Rosemarie Bradley of Plymouth, whose power was out for five hours Tuesday morning and continuing to flicker in the afternoon. “In past storms, you had either high winds or high waves, but with this one you have the waves, the winds, the snow, and it’s the third one in a row.”
Just over a foot of snow fell on Logan Airport, where hundreds of flights were either delayed or canceled Tuesday.
After a day of disruption on roads and public transportation systems, Stephanie Pollack , the state’s transportation secretary, is hoping Wednesday’s morning commute returns to normal.
“The major roads will be cleared overnight so that folks can get a safe morning commute,” she said in an interview Tuesday night.
Commuters, however, may find secondary roads are still sloppy.
The MBTA’s Red, Green, Orange and Blue lines should return to normal operating schedules, having been reduced during Tuesday’s storm, Pollack said. Ferry service is slated to resume on Wednesday.
The commuter rail planned to operate a regular schedule, although Pollack acknowledged that crews had “a lot of work to do overnight” and encouraged commuters to check for updates and delays before they head out in the morning.
There were a “number of injuries” in connection with storm-related crashes on Massachusetts highways Tuesday, said Pollack, but no fatalities.
Governor Charlie Baker announced an 11 a.m. delayed start time on Wednesday for all non-emergency state executive branch employees. Most courts in the state will delay opening until 10 a.m.; courts in Berkshire, Hampden, and Hampshire counties will open at regular times.
Cape Cod in particular was hammered Tuesday with heavy, wet snow and high winds that fractured trees and left tens of thousands without power, prompting officials to open three emergency shelters there.
The National Weather Service said the brunt of the storm passed Greater Boston shortly before 10 p.m Tuesday.
There was a chance that light snow flurries could persist into the morning on Wednesday. Late Wednesday afternoon and evening could bring moderate to heavy snow squalls, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson. The snow could accumulate in some areas, although it’s not expected to exceed an inch or two, said Simpson.
On Tuesday, more than a foot of snow was reported in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and Milford reported 20 inches, which appeared to be the highest total in the state, according to the weather service.
Bridgewater reported more than 14 inches of snow, while Stoughton reported more than 18 inches, and Gloucester and Westport were reporting more than 13 inches, according to the weather service.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said schools in Boston will be closed for a second consecutive day Wednesday, though City Hall, public libraries, and other facilities will be open, he said. A snow emergency remained in effect.
The storm could force the cancellation of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston or require the route to be altered, Walsh said.
There was one happy event: Boston EMS helped deliver a baby at a home in Roslindale.
Speaking to reporters at the state highway emergency operations center in South Boston, Baker said the number of power outages is likely to escalate on the South Shore and Cape Cod, where forecasters predicted the storm would hit hardest.
As of 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, state officials said 157,198Eversource and National Grid customers were without power.
Eversource warned customers they could face multiple days of power outages, saying “winter weather is causing significant damage to our system.”
Utility crews were pre-staged throughout the state, Baker said, but they could not begin making repairs until the storm passes.
High wind gusts are a peril for crews, said Priscilla Ress, a spokeswoman for Eversource, said.
Crew members, she said, can’t go up in their buckets to repair damaged lines until the winds subside.
“Safety is our No. 1 concern for our customers and, of course, for our workers,” she said.
Baker noted that the crews from National Grid and Eversource have dealt with 750,000 customers without power during the previous two nor’easters.
“It’s very difficult for those folks,’’ Baker said of the utility crews. “My guess is they will move quickly and aggressively to deal with it.”
Christine Milligan, a spokeswoman for National Grid, said Tuesday the utility had more than 500 crews working to restore power in Massachusetts.
One silver lining in the recent battery of storms?
“With back to back to back nor’easters, we already have our crews in place,’’ Milligan said. “We’ve got our crews stationed throughout our service areas, especially in those communities that were already hard hit.’’
The Massachusetts coast appeared to bear much of the brunt of the nor’easter. For Boston, Hyannis, Falmouth, Plymouth, Marshfield, and Martha’s Vineyard, it’s now considered the Blizzard of ’18.
The weather service said the storm delivered winds in excess of 35 miles per hour and that blowing snow reduced visibility to 1/4 of a mile for three hours Tuesday to those communities, meeting the technical definition of a blizzard.
Yet the snowiest towns in the state as of late afternoon were in Worcester County, where 20 inches of snow were reported by late afternoon in the town of Milford. Nineteen inches were reported in Uxbridge and 17.7 inches at Worcester Airport.
On the South Shore, Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley said power lost during the previous storms was fully restored to Plymouth early Tuesday. But at 11:30 a.m., the number of customers without power had risen to 12,000, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Shortly after 5 p.m., about 8,600 customers were without power.
Plymouth County was expected to receive some 2 feet of snow before the storm moved out, with equally heavy snowfalls in Barnstable County, eastern Bristol County, Nantucket, and parts of Cape Cod.
By Tuesday afternoon, an 81-mile-per-hour wind gust was recorded in East Falmouth, and gusts of 76 miles per hour in Barnstable and 70 miles per hour in Wellfleet were recorded, according to the weather service. Nantucket recorded a 77-mile-per-hour gust, while Boston’s Logan Airport reported a gust reached 49 miles per hour.
The Sandwich Fire Department posted on Facebook that 85 percent of the town was without power Tuesday afternoon, and several major roadways were blocked.
Sandwich fire officials reported that the department had responded to approximately 40 calls since 7 a.m., and “power restoration is going to take awhile” with all of the storm damage.
“This will be a top 5 storm,” the department wrote.
A blizzard warning was also issued for both coastal New Hampshire and Maine.
The storm forced the speed limit for the entire Massachusetts Turnpike to be reduced to 20 miles per hour, State Police said in a tweet.
State Police said at least nine tractor-trailers were involved in crashes on state highways.
Pollack said Boston’s Logan International Airport was open, but airlines canceled some 800 flights Tuesday. She urged air travelers to check with their airlines, especially those expecting to fly Wednesday.
The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services operated on reduced schedules.
The commuter rail had an 89 percent on-time record during the morning commute, officials said. At the same time, aging trains vulnerable to the stormy weather were protected from the elements.
“But, by holding back some of the service . . . they’re not out in the snow, and that gives us a head start on tomorrow,” Pollack said.
The Wednesday morning commute will be affected by two main factors, Pollack added.
“One is when the storm ends and therefore how much time we have to recover; and also the nature of the snow,” she said.