A storm with wind gusts near hurricane force lashed New England on Saturday, dropping heavy snow, causing coastal flooding and threatening widespread power outages while forecasters warned conditions would worsen and then be followed by bitter cold.
"It's been a very long storm. We're not quite out of the woods on it yet, but we did have a couple of days to prepare for it and it pretty much behaved the way everybody thought it would, and I think that's made a big difference," Gov. Charlie Baker said Saturday evening. "We think the snow will end sometime around 11 (p.m.), but tomorrow will continue to be a very long day in terms of cleanup and in some cases that cleanup will probably take into Monday."
Massachusetts, where forecasters said some isolated pockets could get as much as 30 inches of snow, banned heavy trucks from interstate highways for most of Saturday. The tractor-trailer ban remains in effect until 2 a.m.
During a press conference with transportation officials Saturday evening, Baker said snow was expected to continue to fall at a rate of 2-4 inches per hour until around 7 p.m. and eventually taper off. Since high winds and white out conditions were expected to continue overnight as crews cleanup, Baker asked residents to avoid traveling Saturday night into Sunday morning.
"For the most part, people have done a great job of staying home and off the roads. Thank you very much to everybody who took that particular concern of ours seriously," Baker said. "We're gonna continue to ask people to stay off the roads throughout tonight and into early morning tomorrow if they can. The snow obviously will end but the cleanup is going to continue all night and into into tomorrow morning as well."
MassDOT said Saturday night that they had around 3,000 pieces of equipment out working to clear the snow.
Officials from Connecticut to Maine also warned people to stay off the roads amid potential whiteout conditions Saturday. Across the region, residents hunkered down to avoid whiteout conditions and stinging snow hurled by fierce winds. Businesses closed or opened late.
Rhode Island, all of which was under a blizzard warning, banned all nonemergency road travel starting at 8 a.m.
“This is serious. We’re ready for this storm, and we also need Rhode Islanders to be ready,” Gov. Dan McKee said. “The best way to handle this storm is to stay home."
As of Saturday afternoon, over 100,000 power outages had already been reported in the Bay State. A relatively low number of outages were reported in the other New England states.
"We do have eyes on all these outages," Eversource CEO Joe Nolan said Saturday evening. "I want to let all our customers know that that help is on the ground already and that we will get power back just as quickly as safely as possible and I'm very very grateful for their patience."
Eversource released crews out of Connecticut and New Hampshire Saturday who were on their way to southeastern Massachusetts, which was hit particularly hard by the storm.
Highway speed limits were reduced in several areas Saturday, including along the Massachusetts Turnpike from the New York state line to Framingham. Massachusetts Department of Transportation crews still had more than 3,000 pieces of snow and ice equipment out on the roads as of Saturday evening.
"Crews have obviously been out all day but the conditions are making it really difficult to keep the roads clear for any significant period of time," Baker said. "We expect it will take until morning tomorrow for roads to be in a better condition."
Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said a number of issues related to the storm made cleanup especially problematic, including flooded coastal roads, the rate of snowfall and downed power lines. Additionally, the snow was very powdery and, when combined with the high winds, created a problem with snowdrifts.
"The storm has hit us in line with expectations and with forecasts. I cannot stress enough how hazardous roadway conditions have been throughout the day today. We have been seeing very heavy snow, wind whiteout conditions in many areas today," Gulliver said. "Both MassDOT and cities and towns have had had crews out throughout the storm struggling to keep up with the snowfall rates."
If the power is out, officials also encouraged people to seek heat a warming shelters. Call your local public safety officials or 211 to find a shelter or a warming center near you.
Steve Poftak, General Manager of the MBTA, said the agency's primary concern was about 20-25 buses that were stuck in the snow.
"As I said yesterday, today was going to be one of the most challenging days for the MBTA and the day has surely delivered," Poftak said. "We have crews that are working to free those buses."
The MBTA suspended five routes to 11, the 215, the 220, the 712 and the 713, where conditions were "unsafe" to operate, Poftak said. Additional information on how your bus may have been affected by this can be found on the MBTA website.
Boston was under a blizzard warning and forecast to get as much as 2 feet of snow.
Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Areas closest to the coast were expected to bear the brunt of the storm, which could bring wind gusts as high as 70 mph in New England.
Most flights into and out of the airports serving New England were canceled Saturday, according to FlightAware. More than 4,500 flights were canceled across the U.S. Amtrak canceled all its high-speed Acela trains between Boston and Washington and canceled or limited other service.
A bundled-up Nicky Brown, 34, stood at the doors of Gordon’s liquor store in Waltham on Saturday morning, waiting for it to open.
“My boyfriend is out driving a plow, and I had a bunch of cleaning to do at home, and I want a drink while I’m doing it,” she said, as she called the store to find out if it planned to open at all. “It’s a good day to stay inside and clean.”
Video on social media showed wind and waves battering North Weymouth, south of Boston, flooding streets with a slurry of frigid water. Other video showed a street underwater on Nantucket and waves crashing against the windows of a building in Plymouth.
In Newburyport, near the New Hampshire border, officials encouraged residents along the shore to move to higher ground.
“It’s almost unbearable, it hurts your face," said Dennis Poissant of Worcester. "The wind is hurting, yup, hurting the face, so yeah, visibility is zero. Need these ski goggles, there we go.”
Power lines and trees were reported down in several South Shore communities, including Plymouth and Hanson. Power lines were also reported down in Yarmouth, causing traffic delays.
Minor coastal flooding was also reported in Scituate.
High tide was shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, and Winthrop Parkway at the Revere line was closed due to flooding.
In Boston, Quincy Shore Drive inbound lanes and Morrissey Boulevard between Freeport Street and UMass Boston were closed around 8:30 a.m. due to weather conditions and high tide.
Some flooding has also been reported along Boston's waterfront, Mayor Michelle Wu said.
Flooding was also reported in Edgartown on State Road and in Tisbury at the intersection of Beach and Lagoon Pond roads.
Some roads in Cohasset were also washed out.
Snow fell as fast as 5 inches per hour in spots, including Connecticut, where officials worried about having enough snowplow drivers amid shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.
Multiple accidents were reported across the region, including in Boston and Lynn.
In West Hartford, Connecticut, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 84, closing several lanes. Massachusetts banned heavy trucks from interstate highways.
The storm had two saving graces: Dry snow less capable of snapping trees and tearing down power lines, and its timing on a weekend, when schools were closed and few people were commuting.
Hardy New Englanders took the storm in stride.
Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon, jokingly invited the public to his suburban Boston home on Saturday for a free snow-shoveling clinic.
“I will provide the driveway and multiple walkways to ensure your training is conducted in the most lifelike situation,” he said.