'Wicked storm': Blizzard drops 2 feet of snow on New England
BOSTON (AP) Its winds howling at more than 70 mph, the Blizzard of 2015 slammed Boston and surrounding parts of New England on Tuesday with none of the mercy it unexpectedly showed New York City, piling up more than 2 feet of snow.
The storm punched out a 40-to-50-foot section of a seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts, badly damaging a vacant home. In Newport, Rhode Island, it toppled a 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War sailing vessel in drydock, breaking its mast and puncturing its hull.
The blizzard's force and relentlessness stunned even winter-hardened New Englanders.
"It's a wicked storm," Jeff Russell said as he fought a mounting snowdrift threatening to cover a window at his home in Scarborough, Maine.
The snow in New England began Monday evening, continued all day Tuesday and was not expected to ease until late evening. And the bitter cold could hang on: The low in Boston on Wednesday is expected to be 1 degree, and forecasters said it will not get above freezing for the next week or so.
The Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor of more than 35 million people had braced for a paralyzing blast Monday evening and into Tuesday after forecasters warned of a storm of potentially historic proportions.
The weather lived up to its billing in New England and on New York's Long Island, which also got clobbered.
But in the New York City area, the snowfall wasn't all that bad, falling short of a foot. By Tuesday morning, buses and subways were starting to run again, and driving bans there and in New Jersey had been lifted.
The glancing blow left forecasters apologizing and politicians defending their near-total shutdown on travel. Some commuters grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.
"I think it's like the situation with Ebola: If you over-cover, people are ready and prepared, rather than not giving it the attention it needs," said Brandon Bhajan, a New York City security guard.
National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said his agency should have done a better job of communicating the uncertainty in its forecast. But he also said the storm may in fact prove to be one of the biggest ever in some parts of Massachusetts.
Around New England, snowplows struggled to keep up, and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals. Snow blanketed Boston Common, where the Redcoats drilled during the Revolution, and drifts piled up against Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty stoked the fires of rebellion.
Nearly 21 inches of snow coated Boston's Logan Airport by evening, while nearby Framingham had 2 feet and Worcester 26 inches, according to unofficial totals. Lunenburg, Massachusetts, reported 33 inches.
Providence, Rhode Island, had well over a foot of snow. Sixteen inches had piled up in Portland, Maine, and 23 inches in Waterford, Connecticut. Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island, got about 2 feet.
"It feels like a hurricane with snow," said Maureen Keller, who works at an oceanfront resort in Montauk.
At least 30,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Boston-Cape Cod area, including the entire island of Nantucket.
A 78 mph wind gust was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph one on Martha's Vineyard.
"It felt like sand hitting you in the face," Bob Paglia said after walking his dog in Whitman, a small town about 20 miles south of Boston.
Two 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.
As the storm pushed into the Northeast on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters' dire predictions. More than 7,700 flights were canceled, and schools, businesses, government offices and transit systems shut down. But the storm tracked farther east than forecasters expected.
While Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey had been warned they could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, New York City received just under 10 inches, and Philadelphia a mere inch or so. New Jersey got up to 10 inches.
"This is nothing," said Susanne Payot, a New York cabaret singer whose rehearsal Tuesday was canceled. "I don't understand why the whole city shut down because of this."
National Weather Service forecaster Gary Szatkowski of Mount Holly, New Jersey, actually tweeted an apology, saying: "You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his statewide ban on travel as "absolutely the right decision to make," given the dire forecast. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will look at whether storm procedures could be improved, but added: "You can't be a Monday morning quarterback on something like the weather."
Officials in cold-weather cities know the political costs of seeming unprepared or unresponsive in snowstorms, and the blizzard poses a test for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who took office three weeks ago, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who just finished his first year in office.
With the storm drawing near, the governor banned all non-essential travel, and the mayor ordered city schools closed for two days.
"So far, so good," Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry said. "What's important for a governor or a mayor is to appear to be in charge and to have a plan to finish up the job and to get the city and the state back to work."
Lavoie reported from Whitman, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rhode Island; Mark Pratt and William J. Kole in Boston; Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut; Jennifer Peltz, Kiley Armstrong, Ula Ilnytzky and Verena Dobnik in New York City; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey; and Sean Carlin, Michael Sisak and Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia contributed to this report.