Storm winds down after dumping as much as 2 feet of snow, pounding the coast
A recordbreaking storm is winding down now after blanketing some areas of the state with as much as 2 feet of snow and pounding the coast with wind-driven waves that flooded the streets of seaside towns and damaged homes.
The National Weather Service said that the heaviest snow late this afternoon was mainly falling across Southeastern Massachusetts, where it was possible that another 1 to 3 inches of snow could fall. Most of the snow should be finished by 8 p.m. tonight, though there could be a few lingering snow showers, forecasters said in a discussion posted on the Web.
Along the coast, where the power of the wind and waves was the story, a dozen houses were placed in jeopardy on vulnerable Plum Island in Newbury, including one house that was ripped from its foundations and teetered into the surf.
A National Weather Service snowfall forecast map showed a large swath of Central and Eastern Massachusetts receiving 18 to 24 inches of snow, including a small section of southwest Boston, while the rest of the city is expected to collect 14 to 18 inches.
As of early afternoon, the agency reported that the two places in the state where the snow was deepest were Holden (24.4 inches) and Weymouth (24.1 inches). As of 1 p.m., 12.8 inches had fallen at Logan International Airport, including 10.2 inches that fell today alone, a record for March 8. A record for the day of 14.9 inches was also set in Worcester.
Forecasters, who were surprised by the abundance of snow, said it was difficult to predict because temperatures were on the borderline of freezing and the ocean storm that generated the snow had an unusually strong impact despite being hundreds of miles offshore.
No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 a.m. until mid-afternoon, said David Epstein, the meteorologist who blogs for boston.com.
Governor Deval Patrick, speaking at a State House news conference, called the morning commute a “mess” and urged people to delay their departure for the evening commute so they wouldn’t end up sharing roads with plows, which slows down both the commute and the plow drivers.
“It’s a good day if you can, if you work in town, to go out on a long lunch and spend time before you head home,’’ Patrick said. “Use your common sense. … Be patient. Take it slow on the roads.”
The boston.com traffic monitoring service late this afternoon showed traffic flowing fairly well, with many drivers apparently having heeded the official advice to stay off the roads.
Patrick and officials from his Cabinet said there had been problems with coastal flooding, dangerously slick roads, power outages, and with the MBTA system earlier today, but none of those issues had reached the level of the February blizzard.
“At this point in the winter, this is a nuisance storm, not an emergency,’’ Patrick said. “And we are managing it.’’
Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said the state had deployed 2,800 pieces of snow-removal equipment but, even so, there have been numerous accidents, including one involving a tractor-trailer.
He said the storm briefly knocked out power on the Tobin Bridge, eliminating toll collection for a short period. The E Line on the Green Line also shut down briefly due to the storm, Davey said.
As of 5:30 p.m., about 4,700 people were without power in Massachusetts, down from about 9,900 earlier, officials said.
The Plum Island house toppled shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Annapolis Way. No one was injured; the homeowner lives in Florida, neighbors said. The house and others near it had been protected by giant sandbags that the ocean had no trouble surmounting. A refrigerator apparently belonging to the house floated in the waves.
Sam Joslin, the Newbury building inspector, said 12 houses were in jeopardy on the vulnerable island, including the one toppling onto the beach, two others that will need to be condemned, and two more that will probably need to be condemned. None of the 12 can be occupied in their current condition. All the houses are on Annapolis Way and Fordham Way.
Boston’s public schools opened, but hundreds of communities across the state opted to keep schools closed or to open them late, according to the WBZ-TV school closings list. Boston officials said that about 400 pieces of city equipment were clearing snow.
Officials urged people to take public transportation, in hopes of reducing the number of accidents.
State Police spokesman David Procopio said troopers responded to numerous spinouts, and crashes on interstate highways and smaller state roads, but so far no serious injuries had been reported.
The MBTA warned that it might reduce some services due to the storm, especially on bus routes because of road conditions. Commuter rail delays were also reported this morning on the Kingston/Plymouth, Middleborough/Lakeville, and Needham lines and on the Red and Green lines.
Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis said Logan Airport is operating, but there are some delays due to periodic runway snow removals. Brelis urged travelers to check with their individual airlines for updates on flight status before heading to the airport.
The Tobin Bridge tollbooth system power failures today led to one worker being trapped in the elevator that connects the employee parking lot to the booths and office on the bridge deck, officials said. Emergency crews were able to get the trapped worker out of the elevator by 7:30 a.m.
The weather service had warned that the morning high tide, which extended from around 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., posed a significant threat of coastal flooding, essentially along the entire coast from the North Shore to Cape Cod.
Beach erosion and some flooding could continue through tonight’s high tide and into Saturday, the weather service warned.
In Sandwich, where officials had prepared for evacuations and sent out advisories warning residents in low-lying areas of flood risks, the worst was avoided.
Areas prone to flooding, including Dewey Avenue and the boardwalk, experienced minor flooding during the high tide, though nothing beyond expectations, according to Sandwich Emergency Management communications officer Bill LaPine.
“You always have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And right now, it’s looking like things have turned in our favor,” LaPine said this morning. But state officials said at the noon news conference that there was one home in town that was at risk because of the ocean.
In Marshfield, Jack Lee, 51, who lives near a pier at Ferry Street, said this morning that although the flooding at the parking lot across the street looked menacing, it had actually receded considerably and wasn’t as bad as last month’s blizzard.
Lee has lived in the town for 15 years, and at his current address for two years. He spent the morning watching television. “It’s pretty bad out there, but compared to the last storm. Not as windy. The water isn’t as high. Last time the entire street was under water. The water did come up to the street today, just not as high. And we still have power, but if it goes out, there’s a restaurant up the street that has a generator.”
While temperatures will drop into the 20s overnight, temperatures on Saturday are expected to recover and reach into the 40s.
While this storm has certainly packed a punch, it still can’t compare to the Feb. 8-9 blizzard in terms of power outages, wind gusts, and snowfall, said National Weather Service meteorologist Charlie Foley. This is likely because it arrived at the tail end of the winter storm season. In March, the sun’s angle and overall temperatures are higher, sapping storms’ force.
The irony of it all? “We started so quietly this snow season,” Foley said. “To think there was talk we were going to match last year’s lack of snow.”John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Levenson and Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Zachary T. Sampson and Jessica Bartlett contributed to this report.