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The ‘mixed blessing’ storm fading away, but concerns about dangerously cold weather remain

Mike Cushman wore a head-mounted light as he shoveled his driveway in Norfolk early Friday morning.
Mike Cushman wore a head-mounted light as he shoveled his driveway in Norfolk early Friday morning.Matt Campbell/EPA

A powerful nor’easter that brought what Governor Deval Patrick called a “mixed blessing’’ of powdery snow accompanied by dangerously cold temperatures was becoming a memory tonight, leaving behind up to 2 feet of snow and some flooding along the coastline.

But the the severe cold lingers.

Boston is expected to reach zero degrees tonight, just 4 degrees shy of the city’s record low for the date set on Jan. 4, 1981.

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“The city itself probably won’t break that record, but it will be close,” said National Weather Service meteorologist William Babcock.

The temperature in Boston at 10:30 tonight was 4 degrees, with a wind chill of 13 below, according to the weather service.

Officials are warning the public to protect themselves from a wave of arctic air that will dominate the region early Saturday. The weather service issued a wind chill advisory that will remain in effect until 9 a.m. Saturday. Such advisories are issued when wind chill is expected to hover between minus 15 degrees and minus 24 degrees for at least three hours.

At an afternoon briefing today, Patrick said the state weathered the storm with no serious injuries or fatalities and minimal power outages.

The lack of power outages, he said, was likely because the snow was powdery, the result of single-digit temperatures.

“It’s a mixed blessing,’’ Patrick said of those two components of the storm. “The temperature is what makes the snow so light, but the temperature so extreme that it’s a hazard of a different kind.’’

Flooding became a major concern during today’s noon high tide, the third astronomical high tide in a row, and many coastal roads along the South Shore flooded.

Ten people in Duxbury were rescued—without injuries—from five beachside residences by local police and the National Guard.

“There was so much water,” said Captain Rob Reardon of the Duxbury Fire Department. “It was up to my knees.”

In Scituate, harborside residents emerged from their homes this afternoon just as the sun began to peek out, assessing the damage, digging out their cars, and picking up debris strewn in the sand that had covered the roadway during the flooding.

Some damage was not insignificant: People had seawater in their basements, and others had lost wood or supports on their decks. However, most homes escaped major structural damage.

The city of Boston lifted its snow emergency and parking ban at 5 p.m. The MBTA, which experienced some delays this morning because of mechanical and signal problems, was moving throughout the day.

Traffic around the region was slow-moving as thousands of snowplows worked to clear main thoroughfares and smaller roads. They were helped by the fact that many workers, including state employees, stayed home.

Logan Airport, which continued to operate throughout the storm, had two runways operating this morning, said Ed Freni, director of aviation operations for Massport. By this afternoon, all runways were open, and the volume of flights steadily increased through the day as airlines restarted their regular schedules.

“The right thing [for travelers] to do now is call their airline, check on the status of their flights,’’ he said.

Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said some 3,400 pieces of snowplowing equipment were at work, and that the highway crews have generally been successful in pushing the snow off the roads. But he cautioned that with temperatures hovering near zero — and colder — in most of the state, roads can be icy.

But salt has no effect on roadways once temperatures drop below the 20s, he said. “The roads are likely to be slippery,’’ he said.

Overall, Davey said, the morning commute was light.

“I think we are fortunate that this was a Friday’’ at the end of the Christmas and New Year holiday, Davey said. “If this had been next Monday, I think it would have been much more of a challenge for sure.’’

The severe cold is believed to have caused burst pipes that led to flooding and evacuations at Emerson Hospital in Concord, the Prudential Center shopping mall, and a movie theater in Boston.

When a sprinkler at Emerson Hospital burst this afternoon, emergency room patients were moved to other areas of the hospital and ambulances were temporarily diverted to other facilities, according to Concord Fire Captain Tom Judge.

At the Prudential Center shopping mall in Boston, a burst pipe in the emergency sprinklers caused about 30 minutes of flooding, said Steve MacDonald, a Boston Fire Department spokesman.

The long-running storm set a record in Boston on Thursday dumping 10.6 inches of snow in the city before midnight. The previous record had been in place since 1904, when the city received 8 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Essex County on the North Shore was hit hard by the storm, with Boxford reporting 24.3 inches of snow and Topsfield 23.5 inches. In Boston Friday, 15.1 inches were recorded at Logan International Airport.

Powerful wind blasts — a 65-mile-per-hour gust was reported in Hyannis — were also part of the potent weather system. No major power outages were reported by late this afternoon, officials said.

The next few days will bring some relief from the cold before temperatures plummet again on Tuesday.

By late Saturday afternoon temperatures will rise into the upper 20s and by Sunday, they will skyrocket into the 40s. Monday’s temperatures could climb even higher into the low 50s.

Rain is expected Sunday night into Monday morning.

Tuesday, temperatures are expected only to reach a high of 16, with a low of 6. Wednesday, they could drop into the single digits.

At his briefing today, Patrick urged homeowners to remove snow from rooftops before Sunday’s rain to avoid the added weight that would come from it mixing in with a foot or more of snow.

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