Thursday, 10:24 AM
As snow melts, officials look at what went wrong
(Mark Wilson/Globe Staff)
A car sat still blanketed in snow today at the Newton Service Plaza on Interstate 95 where it was left during Thursday’s storm.
By Andrew Ryan, John R. Ellement, Matt Viser, and Donovan Slack, Globe Staff
As almost a foot of snow begins to melt, city and state officials are meeting this morning to try to determine why metropolitan Boston was plunged into chaos by fleeing commuters.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who accused the state of being ill prepared for the storm, met with city department heads to talk about what went wrong.
"Yesterday was an aberration, I think," Menino said. "We have to do better. It has to be coordinated better than it was."
The mayor met with executives from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to urge businesses to stagger the times they release their workers during snow storms. "It seemed like everybody decided yesterday at 1 p.m. to release their employees," Menino said.
State officials defended their response today to what they described as a "uniquely intense storm." Governor Deval Patrick said commuters did not heed warnings to go home before the snow hit.
"People were asked to leave early, and they didn't," Patrick said at a press conference. “The decisions made, particularly by private employers, was to not release as soon as we would have liked. It's not to lay the fault at private employers, but it's very hard in a practical manner to plow the roads when everybody is on them."
Bernard Cohen, the secretary of transportation, disputed Menino's contention that the state was not prepared without mentioning the mayor by name.
"This was by the numbers as far as I'm concerned," Cohen said "We were ready, we were prepared, we were doing all the things we would do in a storm like this. I also want to point out that, with all the attention that's been paid to the state roadway system in the Boston area, we are the state of Massachusetts, and if you look at the rest of the state we did a pretty good job."
The record-setting storm dumped 10 inches of snow in Boston. Up to 14 inches fell in other parts or the state. Over eight hours, 728 vehicles were towed off highways and interstates, according to State Police. One person was killed when a man driving a snowmobile the wrong way in the center lane of Interstate 84 in Sturbridge collided with a tractor trailer at 1 a.m.
Sunny skies are expected to push temperatures over 40 degrees today, melting some of the mounds of snow along sidewalks and streets. After dark, that water is expected to refreeze when the mercury drops to the lower 20s and upper teens.
"Temperatures are going to take a tumble pretty quickly," said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist in at the National Weather Service in Taunton. "Anything that does melt is going to freeze and cause problems."
Another storm is expected to pummel New England over the weekend, packing wind gust that could reach 50 miles per hour. Starting before dawn Sunday, up to 6 inches more snow may fall with a mix of sleet and freezing rain.
“It’s going be cold,” Foley said. “You are going to have the wind and the wet slop. It’s not going to be a terrific day."
Forecasters are still trying to determine when and where the snow will turn to rain.
One of the agencies reviewing its response to the storm is Boston public schools, where hundreds of the district’s 56,000 students were stranded in classrooms for four to eight hours. Unlike some other districts across the state, Boston Public Schools did not dismiss students early and buses got caught on clogged roads.
"I don't think any of us in the city anticipated the gridlock," Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said today in an interview. "Unfortunately, that first group of buses had a very difficult time getting through the traffic."
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