650,000 without power, snowstorm kills 5, as New England begins digging out

A man talks on the phone as he looks at a row of cars buried in snow on Third Street in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

AP

A man talks on the phone as he looks at a row of cars buried in snow on Third Street in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet of snow Saturday and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York's Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.

New York's airports dug out from under nearly a foot of snow and allowed some flights to land Saturday, while Boston's Logan Airport remained closed.

About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days. Roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts. Some people found the wet, heavy snow packed so high against their homes they couldn't get their doors open.

"It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet," said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., for a landscaping company.

In Providence, where the drifts were 5 feet high and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight, Jason Harrison labored for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, "has already paid for itself."

At least five deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn't passed: "People need to take this storm seriously, even after it's over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling."

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of '78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth on the city's all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, for the No. 2 spot in the record books there.

Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.

In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city "dodged a bullet" and its streets were "in great shape." The three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. — were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, a peak of around 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state.

By nightfall, utility crews had started to make significant progress in restoring power and bringing those numbers down.

Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. The Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.

On Long Island, which got more than 2½ feet of snow, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.

One of those who was rescued, Priscilla Arena, prayed as she waited, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children, ages 5 and 9. Among her advice: "Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love."

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and headed for home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

"There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there."

Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.

"I was very lucky and I never even lost power," said Susan Kelly of Bayville. "We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm." As for the shoveling, "I got two hours of exercise."

At New York's Fashion Week, women tottered on 4-inch heels through the snow to get to the tents to see designers' newest collections.

Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow and were jumping into snowbanks and making forts. Snow was waist-high in the streets of Boston. Plows made some thoroughfares passable but piled even more snow on cars parked on the city's narrow streets.

Boston's Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night.

Life went on as usual for some. In Portland, Karen Willis Beal got her dream wedding on Saturday — complete with a snowstorm just like the one that hit before her parents married in December 1970.

"I have always wanted a snowstorm for my wedding, and my wish has come true to the max," she said.

In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family's home. Everyone was fine.

Some spots in Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of coastal flooding, including Salisbury Beach, where around 40 people were ordered out.

Among them were Ed and Nancy Bemis, who heard waves crashing and rolling underneath their home, which sits on stilts. At one point, Ed Bemis went outside to take pictures, and a wave came up, blew out their door and knocked down his wife.

"The objects were flying everywhere. If you went in there, it looks like ... two big guys got in a big, big fight. It tore the doors right off their hinges. It's a mess," he said.

Posted earlier

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet of snow Saturday and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York's Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.

New York's airports dug out from under nearly a foot of snow and allowed some flights to land Saturday, while Boston's Logan Airport remained closed.

About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days. Many roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts. And some people woke up in the morning to find the snow packed so high they couldn't get their doors open.

"It's like lifting cement. They say it's 2 feet, but I think it's more like 3 feet," said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Mass., as part of a work crew for a landscaping company.

At least four deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning.

In Providence, Jason Harrison had been working for nearly three hours to clear 3 feet of snow that blocked his driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, "has already paid for itself."

But neighbors Rebekah and John Speck strapped on cross-country skis and coasted past snowdrifts 5 feet high and drooping telephone lines encrusted with snow.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn't passed: "People need to take this storm seriously, even after it's over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling."

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph in places, the storm appeared to hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between the New York metropolitan area and Maine. Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of '78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 21.8 inches in Boston, ranking the storm sixth for all-time snowfall. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, for No. 2 in the record books.

In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the all-time Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city "dodged a bullet" and its streets were "in great shape." The three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. — were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and National Guardsmen joined state crews in clearing Connecticut highways.

On Long Island, which got more than 2½ feet of snow, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck or abandoned cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.

One of those who was eventually rescued, Priscilla Arena, prayed as she waited, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children, ages 5 and 9. Among her advice: "Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love."

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and headed for home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

"There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there."

Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow and were jumping into snowbanks and making forts. Snow was waist-high in the mostly empty streets of Boston. Plows made some thoroughfares passable but piled even more snow on cars parked on the city's narrow streets.

Boston's Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night.

Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.

"I was very lucky and I never even lost power," said Susan Kelly of Bayville. "We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm." As for the shoveling, "I got two hours of exercise."

Some homes in Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of coastal flooding, including in Salisbury Beach, where around 40 people were ordered out.

Among them were Ed and Nancy Bemis, who heard waves crashing and rolling underneath their home, which sits on stilts. At one point, Ed Bemis went outside to take pictures, and a wave came up, blew out their door and knocked down his wife.

"The objects were flying everywhere at the beginning. If you went in there, it looks like two big guys got in a big, big fight. It tore the doors right off their hinges. It's a mess," he said.

The Postal Service took the rare step of closing post offices and suspending mail delivery Saturday in New England.

Some people managed to make it to work. In Westborough, Mass., Christina's Cafe opened at 6 a.m. as usual to serve breakfast to snowplow operators. Kim Lupien was the only one of the restaurant's six waitresses who made it to work, climbing through snowdrifts from her home nearby.

"People expect us to be open, so we're open," she said with a shrug. Lupien added that she grew up in snowy Maine: "That's why it doesn't affect me much."

Posted earlier

BOSTON — A howling storm across the Northeast left the New York-to-Boston corridor shrouded in 1 to 3 feet of snow Saturday, stranding motorists on highways overnight and piling up drifts so high that some homeowners couldn't get their doors open. More than 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity.

At least three deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the storm, including that of a New York man killed when the tractor he was using to plow his driveway ran off the edge of the road.

More than 38 inches of snow fell in Milford, Conn., and an 82 mph wind gust was recorded in nearby Westport. Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire got at least 2 feet of snow, with more falling.

Roads in many places were impassable. Across much of New England, snowed-over cars looked like white blobs. Streets were mostly deserted save for snowplow crews and a few hardy souls walking dogs or venturing out to take pictures. In Boston's Financial District, the only sound was an army of snowblowers clearing sidewalks.

The digging-out went more smoothly in some places than in others.

A little more than 11 inches fell in New York, but the city was "in great shape" and "dodged a bullet," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, predicting streets would be cleared by the end of the day. The New York region's three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. — were up and running again by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

But hundreds of motorists had abandoned their vehicles on New York's Long Island, and even snowplows were getting stuck. Emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists, some of whom spent the night stuck in their cars.

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and head for his home in Middle Island, N.Y., in Suffolk County, but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

"There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and spent the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there."

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut closed roads to all but essential traffic.

Some of the worst of the storm appeared to hit Connecticut, where even emergency responders found themselves stuck on highways all night. In the shoreline community of Fairfield, police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift was staying on duty, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau.

"It's a real challenge out there," Tetreau said. "The roads are not passable at this point. We are asking everyone to stay home and stay safe."

Several state police cars were also stuck in deep snow in Maine, where stranded drivers were warned to expect long waits for tow trucks.

Nearly 22 inches of snow fell in Boston and more was expected, closing in on the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches. The archdiocese in the heavily Roman Catholic city reminded parishioners that, under church law, the requirement to attend Sunday Mass "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation."

Flooding was a concern along the coast. The possibility led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, Mass., south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury, in northeastern Massachusetts

The Postal Service closed post offices and suspended mail delivery Saturday in New England.

"This is crazy. I mean it's just nuts," Eileen O'Brien said in blacked-out Sagamore Beach, Mass., as she cleared heavy snow from her deck for fear it might collapse.

As the pirate flag outside her door snapped and popped in gale-force winds Saturday, she said: "My thermostat keeps dropping. Right now it's 54 inside, and I don't have any wood. There's nothing I can do to keep warm except maybe start the grill and make some coffee."

In South Windsor, Conn., Bill Tsoronis used a snowblower to carve paths through huge snow drifts in his neighborhood.

"I thought we might have 18 or 20 inches, but in some places it's up to my waist. It's more than I expected," he said. Still, he said the storm was not much more than a nuisance, since the neighborhood still had power, and he said he might gather with neighbors for cocktails later in the day.

His neighbor Mike Schroder said as he brushed snow off cars in his driveway that the storm lived up to the hype.

"This is finally one they got right," he said. He said the cleanup will take some time: "When the snow is higher than the snowblower, you're in trouble."

Posted earlier

BOSTON — A behemoth storm packing hurricane-force wind gusts and blizzard conditions swept through the Northeast on Saturday, dumping more than 2 feet of snow on New England and knocking out power to 650,000 homes and businesses.

More than 28 inches of snow had fallen on central Connecticut by early Saturday, and areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire notched 2 feet or more of snow — with more falling. Airlines scratched more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed.

The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it also could mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

The U.S. Postal Service closed post offices and suspended mail delivery on Saturday in all of New England.

In Maine, officials said numerous vehicles, including several state police cars, were stuck in deep snow and warned stranded drivers to expect long waits for tow trucks or other assistance.

For a group of stranded European business travelers, the snow meant making the best of downtime in a hotel restaurant Friday night in downtown Boston, where snow blew outside and drifted several inches deep on the sidewalks.

The six Santander bank employees found their flights back to Spain canceled, and they gave up on seeing the city or having dinner out.

"We are not believing it," said Tommaso Memeghini, 29, an Italian who lives in Barcelona. "We were told it may be the biggest snowstorm in the last 20 years."

The National Weather Service says up to 3 feet of snow is expected in Boston, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches. A wind gust of 76 mph was recorded at Logan Airport.

In heavily Catholic Boston, the archdiocese urged parishioners to be prudent about attending Sunday Mass and reminded them that, under church law, the obligation "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation."

Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode Island could receive more than 2 feet, most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for 2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches.

Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries. In New York, hundreds of cars began getting stuck on the Long Island Expressway on Friday afternoon at the beginning of the snowstorm and dozens of motorists remained disabled early Saturday as police worked to free them.

About 650,000 customers in the Northeast lost power during the height of the snowstorm, most of them in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass., lost electricity and shut down Friday night during the storm. Authorities say there's no threat to public safety.

At least four deaths were being blamed on the storm, three in Canada and one in New York. In southern Ontario, an 80-year-old woman collapsed while shoveling her driveway and two men were killed in car crashes. In New York, a 74-year-old man died after being struck by a car in Poughkeepsie; the driver said she lost control in the snowy conditions, police said.

Forecasters said wind gusts exceeding 75 mph could cause more widespread power outages and whip the snow into fearsome drifts. Flooding was expected along coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey the hardest and is considered Jersey's worst natural disaster.

In Manhattan, streets normally bustling after midnight, were quiet Saturday but for the hum of snow blowers, the scrape of shovels and the laughter from late night revelers who braved the snow.

Bill Tavonallo, 39, said he walked home on purpose from a Manhattan bar to enjoy the snow falling.

"With Sandy, we were scared. But this is wonderful," he said, his glasses crusted with ice. "It's nice to have a reason to slow down."

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick enacted a statewide driving ban for the first time since the Blizzard of '78, a ferocious storm that dropped 27 inches of snow, packed hurricane-force winds and claimed dozens of lives.

In New York, Fashion Week, a series of designer showings with some activities held under tents, went on mostly as scheduled, though organizers put on additional crews to deal with the snow and ice, turned up the heat and fortified the tents. The snow did require some wardrobe changes: Designer Michael Kors was forced to arrive at the Project Runway show in Uggs.

For Joe DeMartino, of Fairfield, Conn., being overprepared for the weather was impossible: His wife was expecting their first baby Sunday. He stocked up on gas and food, got firewood ready and was installing a baby seat in the car. The couple also packed for the hospital.

"They say that things should clear up by Sunday. We're hoping that they're right," he said.

Said his wife, Michelle: "It adds an element of excitement."

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