Shoveling between buried cars Saturday in South Boston. The storm left roads impassable across the New York-to-Boston corridor. Emergency crews on snowmobiles rescued stranded motorists, and about 650,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Shoveling between buried cars Saturday in South Boston. The storm left roads impassable across the New York-to-Boston corridor. Emergency crews on snowmobiles rescued stranded motorists, and about 650,000 homes and businesses were without power. (GENE J. PUSKAR / AP)

New England begins to dig out from as much as 3 feet of snow.

Posted: February 11, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet of snow Saturday, and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York's Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.

About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days. Roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts.

At least five deaths in the United States were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including that of an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning.

Some people found the wet, heavy snow packed so high against their homes that they couldn't get their doors open.

"It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet," said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., for a landscaping company.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn't passed: "People need to take this storm seriously, even after it's over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling."

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 m.p.h. in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of '78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth on the city's all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, for the No. 2 spot in the record books there.

Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.

In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city "dodged a bullet." The three major airports - LaGuardia, Kennedy, and Newark, N.J. - were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

Boston's Logan Airport was expected to resume operations late Saturday night.

Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, about 180,000 customers lost power, about one-third of the state.

By nightfall, utility crews had started to make significant progress in restoring power and bringing those numbers down.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. The guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.

On Long Island, which got more than 21/2 feet of snow, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.

One of those who was rescued, Priscilla Arena, prayed as she waited, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children, ages 5 and 9. Among her advice: "Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love."

Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage, and power failures.

"I was very lucky, and I never even lost power," said Susan Kelly of Bayville. "We were dry as anything."

In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family's home. Everyone was fine.

Some spots in Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of coastal flooding, including Salisbury Beach, where about 40 people were ordered out.

Among them were Ed and Nancy Bemis, who heard waves crashing beneath their home, which sits on stilts. At one point, Ed Bemis went outside to take pictures, and a wave came up, blew out their door, and knocked down his wife.

"The objects were flying everywhere at the beginning. If you went in there," he said, "it looks like two big guys got in a big, big fight. . . . It's a mess."

comments powered by Disqus