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Five-year snow storm dumps up to
Snowfall expected to continue into Tuesday afternoon
By Jason Straziuso, Associated Press, 2/17/2003
A powerful winter storm walloped Massachusetts on Monday, dumping as much as four inches per hour in the Boston area, with accumulations of more than two feet expected for much of the region by late Tuesday morning.
Seventeen inches of snow had fallen on Logan International Airport by 8 p.m., National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Buttrick said. The western Massachusetts town of Goshen had the most snow with 21 inches.
The heaviest band of snow was expected to continue blanketing Boston for at least another four to six hours, fueling speculation that the blizzard might be one of the biggest in city history.
The April Fool's Day blizzard of 1997 dropped 24 inches of snow in the Boston area in 24 hours. The record was the Blizzard of '78, which claimed 99 lives and dumped 27.1 inches of snow on Boston, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's impossible at this point to try to rank it in historical perspectives," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.
Gov. Mitt Romney said the storm was manageable because emergency workers had two days to prepare by watching the storm track up the coast.
"At this stage, we believe we're going to be able to keep up with it," Romney said after an afternoon meeting with officials at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Framingham. "We don't feel there's a need to declare a state of emergency."
The state had 4,000 plows, sanders and other pieces of equipment clearing highways Monday, Presidents Day, a holiday for most people.
Police warned people to stay home, for safety's sake and to give plow crews a chance to clear roadways in time for the morning commute.
State Police Sgt. David Paine said motorists appeared to be heeding the warning -- no major traffic accidents and no serious injuries were reported during the first 10 hours of the storm, despite 150 calls for assistance.
"Don't get on the roads," Romney said. "We anticipate being able to keep up with it so long as people are off the roads."
The governor told all nonessential state workers to stay home on Tuesday. Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said each state agency has designated certain staff members as emergency personnel. Those people were expected to remain on the job to help deal with the aftermath of the storm.
Parking restrictions were in place in many eastern Massachusetts communities, including Boston, where officials estimated the snow removal effort was costing the city $68,000 an hour.
Walden Calisto, 26, a plow driver from Peabody, expected to be working straight through Tuesday morning, with maybe a couple coffee breaks.
"It's easy money, but a lot of hours," he said, noting that plow contracts this winter alone have paid the cost of the Chevrolet truck he bought earlier this year. "I like the winter. It's been a good year."
Larry Lohnes, 46, of Salem, shoveled snow Monday for exercise and to keep pace with it.
"I'd rather shovel 12 inches than 19 to 20 inches (Tuesday)," he said. "It's still crazy to me how people panicked after the Blizzard of '78. I'm not in panic mode."
A blizzard warning was declared in early afternoon for the Massachusetts coastline, and state and local officials were also braced for coastal flooding.
Logan Airport remained open but more than half of the scheduled 527 departures and arrivals were canceled by 2 p.m., Massport spokesman Phil Orlandella said.
"They're canceling every minute," Orlandella said. "It's going to get worse before it gets better. People desperately need to talk to their airlines."
Hundreds of passengers were stranded and airport hotels were at capacity because several major East Coast airports were shut down. Many of those at Logan were trying to fly to warmer climates during school vacation week.
Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Lines on Monday canceled all service to Boston and New York City.
Traffic speed was restricted to 40 mph on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Many accidents involved four-wheel drive vehicles, apparently with overconfident drivers at the wheel.
"For some reason they feel, because they have that four-wheel drive they can drive at an increased speed level without losing control," Paine said. "That's a myth."
Paine also urged callers not to call emergency lines seeking updates on road conditions so they stayed open for real emergencies.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the two-day warning allowed city workers to prepare. More than 400 plows were clearing city streets. He urged residents to do their part.
"Shovel the snow around fire hydrants," Menino said. "Be a good neighbor -- knock on the door of an elderly person who might need some help."
Ferry service from Cape Cod to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard was canceled after one run Monday morning. The Steamship Authority usually makes three runs per day.
The Coast Guard reported rescuing one fishing boat. The New Bedford-based Isabel S called for help after a line tangled in its propellor in 40 to 45 mph winds and 6-foot seas off the coast of Nantucket. It's five crew members were uninjured.
Electric companies reported few outages.
"This is a light fluffy snow, which doesn't build up on the power lines," said Mike Monahan, spokesman for NStar, which serves 1.3 million electric and gas customers in eastern Massachusetts.