In Winthrop, the Point Shirley neighborhood was nearly inaccessible by car at high tide Saturday morning. Powerful surf breached a sea wall, flooding nearby streets with swift torrents of water that inundated cars and basements.
Several longtime residents, shoveling walks or attempting to save their cars, said they had not seen such flooding since the Blizzard of ’78.
Joe McDermott leaned on his shovel and watched the waves crash over the sea wall. McDermott said he was grateful he had moved his 90-year-old mother out of the flood zone and into his own home two days before the storm, particularly because Point Shirley was bereft of power much of the night.
“I’m glad she didn’t have to wake up seeing her breath,” he said.
In addition to its help along the coast, the National Guard performed some unconventional storm duty, using a military field ambulance in the midst of the storm to respond to a 911 call in Worcester to assist in the delivery of a baby at 3 a.m. Saturday.
For all the damage caused by the storm, the snow provided a playful winter diversion for many.
The driving ban freed up plenty of walkable space in downtown Boston, enough for well-bundled pedestrians to stop in the middle of the street and take pictures with backdrops strikingly devoid of humans and cars.
Many people walked with snow shoes or used cross-country skis. A few snowboarders created their own slalom course, zigging through light posts on a hill at Boston Common.
Tiny ice crystals carried by strong gusts were a major nuisance, though, pelting the faces of people as they walked into the wind.
Although the traffic ban left some feeling fortunate they did not have to hike through knee-high snow on unplowed sidewalks, a few people faulted the governor’s no-driving decree.
“We pay tax to use the roads, and we live in a city where this is to be expected, so I don’t understand it,” said Sonia Petersen, 29, as she walked along Shawmut Avenue.
Others thought the ban would make the city’s streets navigable sooner.
“The snow removal has been much more efficient than I thought it would be. I wanted to go skiing on the streets, but they’ve gotten the snow off much faster,” said Charlie Mamrak, 50, a biotech worker who was heading into the Common.
The deluge of snow left some feeling downright bored at home.
“There’s nothing more to cook, there’s no more cookies to bake, so we’re going to take a walk and scope out the scene,” said Jennifer Shea, 26, who was walking near Berkeley Street in the Back Bay with her best friend, Nicole Maras, 26. “This is fun. Just wandering aimlessly.”
In South Boston, residents of side streets dug out cars nearly buried in snow. Others took the storm as a cue to have fun.
“I felt pretty guilty, because everyone is out shoveling their cars and here I am walking to the bar,” said Jan Thibault, 30, laughing outside the Lincoln Tavern on West Broadway. “My street isn’t even plowed at all yet, so what’s the point?”
In the Back Bay shopping district near Boylston and Newbury streets, residents flocked to the handful of grocery and convenience stores that remained open. With little room to push snow aside in the densely developed neighborhood, crews used heavy equipment to lift it into dump trucks, while police and transportation officials chased away cars that tried to park near the Prudential Center.
Nearby, outside the Ladder 17 firehouse on Columbus Avenue, firefighters placed a whimsical sign on a pile of snow that read, “FREE SNOW.”
The recovery was powered by more than 3,600 cleanup crews who continued to work on Saturday morning after a long night of battling the snow. They made the job easier for utility crews who slowly but steadily restored power throughout the day. By 9:30 p.m., the number of outages had dropped to 311,000, from more than 420,000.
The lack of MBTA service helped persuade the Boston Bruins to cancel their home game Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
State officials would not predict when power would be restored to all customers, including the hardest-hit areas of Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. National Grid said Saturday it expected all but customers in Norfolk and Plymouth counties to have power back within 24 hours. As of 4:30 p.m., the utility had roughly 131,800 customers without electricity.
Both National Grid and NStar had declared the snowstorm a “Level 5” event — their highest designation — meaning the worst outages could last for three days or more.
“I’d like it to happen now,” Patrick said of restoring all power. However, he added, ending the travel ban could affect the pace because traffic will make work more difficult for utility crews.Continued...