New England digs out from winter storm

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Englanders dug out from under more than 2 feet of snow and children in hundreds of communities enjoyed a second day off from school Thursday as power companies worked to restore energy to homes and businesses darkened by the region’s third snowstorm in three weeks.

The winter storm that crippled the South earlier this week joined forces with a system from the Midwest as it moved over the Northeast on Wednesday. The storms announced their arrival in New England with claps of thunder and record amounts of snowfall in some cities. Observers in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts reported as much as 3 feet of snow.

Winter-hardy New England was working its way to normal one day after the storm. Many major Massachusetts highways were cleared, but many secondary roads remained slick and mountains of snow obstructed views at many intersections.

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Atlanta, meanwhile, was still struggling to recover four days after it got its share of the storm.

Subfreezing temperatures kept ice on the roads in a region not used to needing fleets of salt trucks or plows. Georgia officials reported progress in clearing highways, but many streets remained slippery and schools were closed for a fourth day across the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The National Weather Service reported snow on the ground in every state except Florida. That included Hawaii, which had 7 inches on the top of the Mauna Kea mountain. The winter weather was blamed for at least 18 deaths since Sunday when snow and ice hit the South.

Scores of schools, businesses and government offices closed Wednesday, and some, including schools in Boston and Providence, R.I., were staying closed Thursday.

Airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights Wednesday, mostly in the snowy Northeast, but said travelers wouldn’t be stuck for days as they were after a Christmas weekend storm. The FAA was reporting that all major Northeast airports were operating normally late Thursday morning.

The sun was shining Thursday in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, accompanied by wind gusts and temperatures below freezing. It was a stark contrast to the day before.

While motorists had been warned to stay off the roads, Josh Clukey, 24, of Eastford, Conn., had no choice. He ventured out when his pregnant wife began showing signs of labor early Wednesday. The drive to a hospital in Willimantic, normally 25 minutes, lasted a harrowing hour.

“It was a little scary. It was dark, and the snow was blowing all over the place,” said Clukey, whose son, Ryland James, was born at 8:42 a.m. “There was maybe only about 6 inches on the roads at the time, but the plows hadn’t come out yet.”

In Maine, winds that gusted to 48 mph in Portland and 50 mph in Brooklin knocked out electricity for more than 7,000 Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. customers at the storm’s peak, officials said.

In Portland, people who had the day off used Twitter and Facebook to organize a snowball fight, resulting in a so-called flash mob with dozens of young people in Deering Oaks Park.

“We heard there was going to be a big snowstorm. We said, ’Hey we’re not working tomorrow so we should have a snowball fight.’ It’s sort of like being a kid again,” said Scott Collins, 27.

Boston accumulated a one-day record 11.6 inches; Worcester, Mass., 15.5 inches; Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport 22.5 inches, and Providence, R.I., 6.9 inches. High snowfall tallies also included 26.3 inches in Chesterfield, Mass., 27 inches in Manchester, Conn., and 21.2 inches in West Gloucester, R.I. The region’s highest was 38.2 inches in Savoy, Mass.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said the storm left more than 100,000 people without power or heat by noon. He declared a state of emergency. Scattered power outages were reported in Connecticut, Rhode Island and elsewhere in the region.

Less than 3,000 customers in Massachusetts were without power late Thursday morning. About 400 in Maine were without electricity as of early afternoon.

In New York, where city leaders took heavy criticism for their slow work after a Dec. 26 blizzard, officials rolled out a massive response that quickly cleared the streets. They also received some help from nature, with only 9 inches of snow falling in Central Park — well short of 20 inches in last month’s storm.