Exasperated New Englanders brace for another major snowstorm

AP News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 7:16 PM
Exasperated New Englanders brace for another major snowstorm

BOSTON (AP) — Exasperated New Englanders still digging out from three major storms that left 6 feet or more of snow in many areas are bracing for what's expected to be another punishing blast of winter this weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for all of eastern Massachusetts and coastal areas of Maine and New Hampshire ahead of a storm expected to intensify Saturday night and last into Sunday, bringing bone-chilling cold behind it.

Wind gusts could howl at 70 mph and north-facing coastal areas could suffer moderate flooding and beach erosion from the "monster storm," said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

"Snow amounts will not be as much as the previous big storms, but still, when you have 8 to 14 inches of snow, wind driven-snow, the cold air and the snow that is already there it's probably going to be very difficult for a lot of people," he said.

The northern New England coast could see greater snowfall totals — with up 2 two feet in Down East Maine. Officials warned that hurricane-force wind gusts could lead to power outages.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced late Friday it would suspend all rail, bus and ferry service in the Boston area on Sunday, the latest in a series of disruptions for the nation's oldest public transit network. Snow and freezing temperatures have overwhelmed the system's aging infrastructure.

Gov. Charlie Baker urged motorists to stay off roads during the storm, but stopped short of an outright travel ban.

The storm's off shore track could hold down snowfall totals inland, but create dangerous coastal conditions, forecasters said. The Coast Guard had an airplane flying in the Gulf of Maine Friday broadcasting a warning to mariners about the impending storm, said Lt. Scott McCann.

The forecast added to the urgency Friday of crews working to remove massive snow piles that have clogged streets and triggered numerous roof collapses.

Massachusetts called up hundreds of National Guard troops to assist with snow removal, and the Hanscom Air Force base outside Boston became a staging area for heavy equipment pouring in from eight other Northeast states to help in the effort.

Patricia Vinchesi, town administrator in Scituate, said a state of emergency would go into effect at midnight Saturday in the coastal community were portions of the seawall were breached during a late January storm.

"We've sort of been in reaction and recovery mode and before we can get any appreciable degree of recovery we are in reaction mode again," Vinchesi said of the coming storm.

The National Guard helped dig out 700 fire hydrants in recent days and workers from the New York Department of Transportation were lending a hand to the snow removal effort on Friday, she said. The state gave Scituate permission to dump snow into the ocean because there was nowhere else to put it.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said two machines capable of melting 135 tons of snow per hour arrived from New York City on Thursday, along with backhoes, dump trucks and front-end loaders from neighboring states.

If the snow wasn't enough, New Englanders also had bitter cold to look forward to in the coming days, with lows of minus 10 degrees forecast in some parts of the region Sunday night.

Snow-weary customers at a Home Depot store in Watertown, Massachusetts, spent Friday loading up on shovels and rock salt in anticipation of the latest storm.

"I can't take it anymore. I'm beat, I'm tired, I'm ready to go back to Brazil," said Armando Pinhero, who has lived in New England for 28 years but had never experienced a winter this severe.

School superintendents in Massachusetts and Maine were spared the decision of whether to order more snow days, as school vacation was already scheduled for next week. Some families planning getaways to warmer destinations moved up their flights from Boston's Logan International Airport Friday to avoid being grounded by the approaching storm.

With the weather promising to show little love on Valentine's Day, Baker on Friday proclaimed "Valentine's Week" in Massachusetts and encouraged people to celebrate the holiday by buying gifts and dining out all next week after the storm.

Business groups said weather-related travel woes have cut into sales by up to 80 percent for some restaurants and retailers leading up to Valentine's Day, a holiday that usually generates about $500 million in business.

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Associated Press writers Mark Pratt in Boston, Rodrique Ngowi in Watertown, Massachusetts, and David Sharp, in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.