Tens of thousands of people remain without power late this afternoon, and coastal communities are still picking up the pieces after being pummeled by the strong winds and heavy snow of a powerful winter storm.
A little more than 23,000 National Grid customers were without power this afternoon because of storm-related damage to power lines, towers, poles, and other electric facilities, according to the company.
The North and South Shores were the hardest hit areas in the National Grid network, according to the utility. More than 300 crews are working to restore power today.
About 8,700 NSTAR customers, mostly on the Cape, were without power as of 4 p.m, said spokesman Michael Durand. Persistent strong winds caused such significant damage that the company is warning some customers may remain without power into Tuesday afternoon.
The storm dumped 18.2 inches on Boston, making it the 10th largest snowfall since the National Weather Service began keeping official records in 1892. The storm may also qualify, officially, as a blizzard, since it appeared to muster sustained wind gusts of 35 mile per hour and to cut visibility to a quarter-mile for three consecutive hours, the two criteria necessary for that august appellation.
The National Weather Service warned of high winds -- and potentially more downed lines -- this afternoon in Eastern Massachusetts, with northwest winds blowing 20 to 30 miles per hour, gusting up to 60 miles per hour, before diminishing slightly late this evening.
State Police spokesman David Procopio said traffic on the roads was light for the evening rush hour during a holiday week, but he cautioned drivers to beware of blowing snow and the possible formation of treacherous black ice.
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said an estimated 60 people sought warm and dry spaces at shelters opened today in the coastal communites of Hull, Quincy, Rockport, Salisbury, and Scituate, as well as a shelter operated by the inland towns of Whitman and Hanson.
Scituate, Judge said, so far has suffered most among coastal towns from the storm surge. Dozens of people have been plucked from flooded or threatened homes by Scituate officials and Massachusetts National Guardsmen with heavy equipment, he said.
“Scituate seems to be in the bull's-eye,’’ Judge said.
He said other coastal communities where streets routinely flood during high tides also experienced that problem.
Flights at Logan International Airport were expected to resume this afternoon. Virgin Airlines has canceled all flights today, according to Massport.
Massport kept Logan open and operating during the blizzard, but passenger airlines literally flew out of town had to bring aircraft back to Boston before flights out could resume, spokesman Phil Orlandella said.
State Police said they had responded to more than 100 crashes since 7 p.m. Sunday night, but none involved serious injuries.
State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan said it could have been worse on the roads and the public transit system. “There’s no question that the timing of the storm helped us quite a bit,” he said, noting that many people were off work and children were out of school. In addition, an accurate forecast allowed the state time to coordinate internally and warn the public.
The MBTA ran with only moderate rush hour interruptions and major roadways were mostly clear by mid-morning, Mullan said.
About 35 bus routes were altered during rush hour to avoid tough turns and inclines. Most passengers experienced delays of 30 minutes to an hour, which had tapered down significantly by midday.
Commuter rail, subway, and trolley service was also generally reliable, with only the antique Mattapan trolley shut down because of concerns that snow would disrupt the old trolley engines. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that 85 percent of rush hour subway and trolleys ran without substantial disruptions. Commuter rail delays ranged from 15 minutes on many lines to an hour on the Old Colony lines that travel between the South Shore and Boston.
Mullan said between 3,500 and 4,000 pieces of snow removal equipment, running through the evening and morning, allowed the state to clear most major roads, even though it took some time to get ahead of the heavy snowfall. Boston city roads also appeared to be clearing, though some seldom-used roads were left unplowed. Car crashes were limited, with Interstate 495 experiencing the most.
“This storm will not be remembered for accidents. It will be remembered for advanced planning and people heeding the warning to stay home,” Mullan said.
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