New England digs out from 2-foot blizzard; this time, the forecasters were right on the money

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After a howling blizzard heaped snow on parts of New England, people in Nantucket are now dealing with no power and flooding. (Jan. 27)

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BOSTON — Trudging through knee-high snow, New Englanders began digging out from a blizzard Wednesday with grudging respect for the forecasters, who missed the mark in New York but were right on the money in the Boston area.

The storm buried the metropolitan area in more than 2 feet of snow Tuesday and lashed it with howling winds of over 70 mph.

By Wednesday morning, the city was bouncing back quickly. Boston buses, subways and commuter trains were running again, and Amtrak trains to New York and Washington were rolling on a limited schedule. Flights began arriving at Logan Airport just after 8 a.m.

Capturing the city's resilient spirit, an unidentified man was hailed as a folk hero after he was photographed clearing snow from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where twin bombs killed three people and wounded 260 in 2013.

Morning commuters high-stepped their way through a warren of snowy paths and towering snowbanks that gave much of Massachusetts an almost alpine feel.

"I had to jump out the window because the door only opens one way," Chuck Beliveau said in hard-hit Westborough. "I felt like a kid again. When I was a kid, we'd burrow through snowdrifts like moles."

As the storm gathered earlier in the week, forecasters had warned that Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey could get 1 to 2 feet of snow. But in the end, they didn't even see a foot, as the storm tracked farther east than expected and vented most of its fury on New England.

In New England, meteorologists had warned the city would receive more than 2 feet, and the National Weather Service said it got 24.4 inches, the city's sixth-highest total on record. Other areas received 2 to 3 feet, pretty much as predicted.

"They actually got it right," James Hansen said as he cleared a Boston sidewalk.

Boston is accustomed to nasty nor'easters and big snowstorms, and with ample warning that a blizzard was coming, officials mobilized thousands of snowplows and called up the National Guard to ensure a speedy recovery.

Early on, Gov. Charlie Baker made a key decision, ordering a driving ban to give crews a chance to clear the mounting snow. Baker said he wrestled with that, but it "worked pretty much as we hoped."

"We've come out of this in relatively good shape," he said Wednesday.

Still, bitter cold threatened to complicate efforts to clear clogged streets and restore power. Around 7,200 people remained without electricity, about half of them on hard-hit Nantucket Island.

Forecasters warned that it won't get above freezing in Boston for a week, and more snow — though nothing major — was expected later in the week.

Snow blanketed Boston Common, where the Redcoats drilled during the Revolution, and drifts piled up against Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams agitated for rebellion against the British.

The storm also punched a gaping hole in a seawall and caused flooding in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and it flipped a 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War ship in Newport, Rhode Island, snapping its mast and puncturing its hull.

Around Massachusetts, Worcester got 33.5 inches — the highest amount recorded since 1905 — and Auburn and Lunenburg each reported 36 inches.

Parts of the New Hampshire coastline got 31 inches. Burrillville, Rhode Island, got 26.5 inches. Thirty-one inches piled up in Sanford, Maine, and 33.5 inches in Thompson, Connecticut. Orient, on the eastern end of New York's Long Island, got about 30 inches.

"Our snowblower broke down a couple of times because it couldn't handle all the snow," said Jodi McKim, struggling to free her car in Whitman, south of Boston. "It was a lot of work."

A 53-year-old man collapsed and died in New Bedford, Massachusetts, while shoveling snow Tuesday night, officials said.

Two other deaths, both on Long Island, were tied to the storm by police: a 17-year-old who crashed into a light pole while snow-tubing down a street and an 83-year-old man with dementia who was found dead in his backyard.

In Providence, a man and his two small children were hospitalized with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning after drifting snow covered a boiler vent on their home.

A forecaster outside Philadelphia actually tweeted an apology for the off-target forecast there, and National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said his agency should have done a better job of communicating the uncertainty in its forecast.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio again defended his administration's decision to prepare for the storm by banning travel.

"You can't put a price on safety," he said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show.

In rural Maine, Leo Moody hoped to dig his ice-fishing shack out of the snow. Sounding like a typically matter-of-fact Downeaster, he brushed it all off as "just a snowstorm."

"Back in the '70s and '80s, this was a typical winter," Moody said. "Now you get a couple feet of snow and everybody freaks out."


Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc, Rodrique Ngowi and William J. Kole in Boston; Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island; Amy Crawford in Westborough, Massachusetts; Denise Lavoie in Whitman, Massachusetts; and Alanna Durkin in Augusta, Maine, contributed to this report.

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