Massive waves crashed along the Massachusetts coast Tuesday evening as stormy weather walloped New England, flooding homes, burying cars and snarling travel throughout the region.
“We’re still very much in the middle of this storm. … It’s not the time for anyone to relax or be complacent,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh warned at an afternoon briefing, describing drivers stranded on snowy roads in his city.
The hardest-hit area — Auburn, Massachuetts — got 32.5 inches of snow. And it hasn’t stopped yet.
“This is a very significant storm, and in many parts of Massachusetts, I think, you could call it, in fact, a historic event,” Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters.
It isn’t just the possibility of record-setting snowfall in some areas that has residents of his state worried.
Coastal areas — already coping with early morning flooding, heavy snow and powerful winds — braced for another possible storm surge.
On Massachusetts’ South Shore, the ocean roared inland to flood the Brant Rock Esplanade, lined with homes and businesses.
The town’s police department posted a photo of what it called a “major seawall breach (that) caused structural damage” to an unoccupied home, while authorities in neighboring Duxbury showed a deck blown yards away from a home. And not far away in Scituate, slushy ice, seawater and debris clogged streets.
Massachusetts wasn’t the only state getting hit hard Tuesday. The National Weather Service also reported about 20 inches of snow in Portland, Maine; more than 27 inches in Hudson, New Hampshire; and 28½ inches in Orient on New York’s Long Island.
On the northern edge of the storm in Maine, Rockland resident Steve DePasa said at 1 p.m. that up to 15 inches of snow was already on the ground, and “we’re expected to get another 10 inches.”
So what can you do in the meantime, besides pray that the power stays on?
“It’s just go out and clean up a little bit so you can,” said DePasa, a CNN iReporter. “Then wait a few hours and do it again.”
The good news? Most people seemed to have heeded the warnings about the storm, which was forecast as “crippling” and “potentially historic,” by stocking up and staying off the roads. If you go through this every year, after all, there’s a good chance you’ll know the drill.
“During these storms, everybody has to hunker down and just be safe,” said Bob Connors from Plum Island, on Massachusetts’ North Shore. “We’ve become pretty proficient at that.”
N.Y. mayor: ‘We’ve dodged the bullet’
While residents of Rhode Island and Massachusetts battled Tuesday’s storm, others in the Northeast — namely people in New York and New Jersey — were breathing a sigh of relief.
Compare that with a day earlier, when they were more likely to be hyperventilating, given the all but cataclysmic warnings about the coming storm.
They were told it could turn 58 million people’s lives upside down. Seven states, from New Jersey to New Hampshire, declared states of emergency. School was called off for not just Tuesday but Wednesday as well. Public transit shut down. Businesses closed, suggesting a far-reaching economic impact in one of America’s busiest commercial regions.
Yet by midmorning, snow wasn’t even falling in New York City. By then, travel bans in New Jersey and New York — even places like Long Island’s Islip, which got more than 20 inches of snow — had been lifted, as some restrictions remained in effect in neighboring Connecticut.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called all the warning and preparations “a better-safe-than-sorry scenario.”
“We’ve dodged the bullet,” he said. “This is nothing like we feared it would be.”
Blocked in, hunkered down
The forecast even improved for Boston. Once expected to see up to 30 inches of snow, the prediction for the Massachusetts capital was downgraded to 15 to 25 inches early Tuesday.
Still, 2 feet of snow isn’t anything to scoff at.
Just ask all those who had their cars snowed in, their front doors blocked and their backyards littered with branches Tuesday.
“The worst part is the steady winds, I think they were approaching 50 mph,” said Nantucket Police Chief William Pittman.
The entire island, where 15,000 people live, lost power during the storm. But that didn’t stop the doctors and nurses at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where Cayden Keith Moore was born at the height of the blizzard early Tuesday.
As she cradled her newborn boy, mom Danielle Smith said she was doing well, thanks to the generator keeping the hospital warm.
“It’s definitely better to be here than at home with no power,” she said.
National Grid had restored electricity, using generators, to most of the island by noon, state emergency management director Kurt Schwartz said, though a more permanent solution was still probably a day away.
The storm also proved dangerous. A 17-year-old died after he hit something while snow-tubing Monday night in Huntington, New York, Suffolk County’s Tim Sini said. An 83-year-old man who suffered from dementia was found frozen to death in his backyard in the same Long Island county, he added.
Thousands of flights canceled
If you’re trying to escape this wintry mess quickly, don’t count on it.
Traffic crawled on everything from side roads to highways — including the Massachusetts Turnpike, which was closed to traffic as of early Tuesday afternoon — and many public transit systems shut down.
More than 4,700 flights in and out of the United States had been canceled as of 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, the flight-tracking website Flightaware.com reported. That’s on top of 2,800 scrubbed Monday. Hundreds more have already been called off for Wednesday.
Amtrak was also affected, suspending Northeast Regional and Acela Express services between New York and Boston for Tuesday because of the weather.
From stocking up to snowball fights
The storm warnings seemed to impress even the most jaded Northeasterner, as groceries flew off store shelves from Brooklyn to Bangor.
Still, it’s not like everyone was shaking in their snow boots.
As Steve Nogueira, a retired meteorologist who lives in Taunton, Massachusetts, said, “We’ve done it before.”
In the coastal city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hundreds accepted a Facebook invitation to a community snowball fight — one that organizer Devin Murphy joked is in the proud tradition dating back to around 1624, when the city was first settled.
Fresh off snowblowing his driveway, Jim Robins estimated about 2 feet of light, fluffy snow had fallen outside his home in Dover, New Hampshire. That’s hardly a dusting, but it’s also not surprising when you live in New England.
“Sure, that’s a lot, but I have tons of family in Buffalo and they were dealing with 6-10 feet of (snow) at the start of the season,” Robins said. “…We will weather this like the New Englanders we are.”