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Mass. Residents Hibernate As Storm Bears Down

A person trudges through Boston's Emerald Necklace Friday afternoon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A person trudges through Boston’s Emerald Necklace Friday afternoon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

For more on the storm, see our blog coverage here.

BOSTON — Massachusetts residents were told by Gov. Deval Patrick to stay off the roads or face a penalty as a huge storm hit the state Friday, bringing with it up to 3 feet of snow, wind gusts of up to 60 mph, coastal flooding and hundreds of thousands of power outages.

With much of eastern Massachusetts under a blizzard warning until 1 p.m. Saturday, Patrick, in a midday Friday news conference, declared a state of emergency and announced that he’s signed an executive order banning vehicle traffic statewide as of 4 p.m. Friday.

Patrick said as the storm gains strength it will bring “extremely dangerous conditions” with bands of snow dropping up to 2 to 3 inches per hour at the height of the blizzard, prompting whiteout conditions.

The ban has exceptions for public safety, utility and essential health care workers; the media; “travel necessary to maintain and deliver critical private sector services” and “travel to support business operations that provide critical services to the public.” It will be in effect until further notice.

Patrick said drivers seen on roadways after 4 p.m. could face a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison or a $500 fine, but he conceded such penalties are unlikely.

“The point is not to figure out how to come down hard on people, it’s to emphasize how critical it is that non-essential travel on the road cease during this storm and during the immediate aftermath,” he said.

Officials said it’s the first time the state has banned traffic on roads since the Blizzard of ’78.

Earlier Friday, state Highway Administrator Frank DePaola referenced the famed storm. “We want to avoid the Blizzard of ’78 condition where people were stuck on roadways, abandoned their vehicles, which then prevented snow and ice clearing operations,” he said.

Light snow began falling just before 10 a.m. in Boston; the worst conditions are predicted for around 10 p.m. Friday. The forecast calls for heavy, drifting snow with little or no visibility.

The MBTA suspended all service — subways, commuter trains, buses — at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Snow covers Minot Beach in Scituate late in Friday afternoon. (David Boeri/WBUR)

Snow covers Minot Beach in Scituate late in Friday afternoon. (David Boeri/WBUR)

Logan International Airport said it would try to stay open during the storm but airlines canceled many flights through Saturday.

Amtrak also suspended all Northeast Corridor trains on Friday afternoon.

In Boston, a snow emergency and parking ban went into effect at noon on Friday.

A flood warning is in effect until Saturday noon for the state’s east-facing coastline. The National Weather Service warned of moderate to major coastal flooding at high tide Saturday morning, with large waves and a 2- to 3-foot storm surge that could damage shorefront homes, cause beach erosion, and make some coastal roads temporarily impassable.

Marshfield, Revere, Scituate, Sandwich Harbor and the east coast of Nantucket were among the areas that could be vulnerable to major flooding, according to the weather service.

Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said a shelter was set up at the high school.

“We’ve advised the residents in the areas most prone to coastal flooding to seek alternate shelter before the storm and definitely before the high tides, and we’re particularly emphasizing that to residents in the northern part of Humarock,” she said.

The Red Cross said it was getting shelters ready across the state; three were opened on Cape Cod, one was opened on Martha’s Vineyard, and a dozen are on standby.

Stores throughout the state were packed Friday with people buying food, shovels, batteries and other storm supplies.

Jack Percoco, of Cambridge, reaches into depleted shelves for milk at a supermarket in Somerville Friday. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Jack Percoco, of Cambridge, reaches into depleted shelves for milk at a supermarket in Somerville Friday. (Elise Amendola/AP)

“I came to get some broccoli and vegetables and stuff like that,” said Boston’s Larry Jones, at the South Bay Stop & Shop, “but there’s nothing here. It’s pretty crazy.”

State Energy Secretary Rick Sullivan said officials have been in contact with all four of the state’s utilities and each had filed an action plan with the state. Work to restore power won’t start until the storm is over.

“We’ve categorized it as a Level 5 storm, which is the highest category we have,” said National Grid President Marcy Reed. “That means we do expect outages which could be greater than three days.”

“The potential of widespread power outages is probably our biggest issue, simply because we’re putting people in harm’s way relative to the lack of heat,” said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The storm comes almost 35 years to the day after the Blizzard of ’78. That storm, which claimed dozens of lives, left about 27 inches of snow in Boston and packed hurricane-force winds and flooding that caused extensive damage along the coast.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: NOAA review of top 10 snowstorms in southern New England

CLICK TO ENLARGE: NOAA review of top 10 snowstorms in southern New England

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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  • Hillary

    I am currently on the last Amtrak train from New York, scheduled to arrive in Boston at 4:30. Thanks, Deval! Looking forward to my 3-mile walk home.

    • trulyally

      Well sure. The Governor made this weather. It must be his fault.

      • Hillary

        What’s his fault is not checking the train schedule before implementing the ban.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          whats his fault is not trusting people to make informed decisions instead making “Executive orders” based on specualtion its past 4 and there is like 2 inches of snow

        • Thinkfreeer

          yeah, i noticed the last MBTA train was at 3:30 and you were banned form the roads after 4:00 I guess he expects you to walk home. Even though there was only about 2″ of snow at 4:00. His Massholiness will let us know when we can live life, enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      • name

        His fault? No. Just don’t try and baby the state.

    • JTinRI

      What an inconsiderate lout for not checking every single possible schedule and checking with you to be sure it was OK. And let’s blame God & Mother Nature while we’re at it.

      • Thinkfreeer

        Ahole!

  • Thinkfreeer

    IMPEACH PATRICK NOW!

  • Thinkfreeer

    There’s not even an inch of snow on the ground and it’s 1:30. What kind of wuss is the governor? He may act like a Nazi, but I’ll bet he’s a wimp

    • JTinRI

      I bet your one of those who doesn’t believe anything until comes along smacks you upside the head. The guv is actually looking a much bigger picture than you are.

      • Thinkfreeer

        I’d say the governor is looking like a much bigger dickhead. And yes, I think there is duty by the executive branch to act when there actually IS a state of emergency. They can and should get ready, but not issue martial law type orders until there actually IS AN EMERGENCY. As any sane person knows, these weather events are highly UNPREDICTABLE.

        I guess you’re not getting any emergency quality weather in RI, huh douchebag?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        of course, because only he has a direct line to the sacred cod. its just snow, we live in New England, let’s all just calme down a little. we survived just fine without deval threatening people. and how the heck are you supposed to do a mandatory evacuation while also submitting to a mandatory driving ban? I hope they have skis

      • Thinkfreeer

        I guess my original reply to you got deleted.

        Don’t bet real money, loser.

    • Thinkfreeer

      Wow! 7:15 and a whole SIX INCHES! I’m so scared! I sure hope the government is going to take care of me!

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        for godsakkes stay off the roads! why do civilains even “need” 4 wd?

        • Thinkfreeer

          we need “common-sense” solutions. leave your house only when you have permission.

      • boatkitten

        Once again, civilians end up proving, by way of these kinds of short sighted comments, why they really do need the Gov to take care of them afterall.

        • Thinkfreeer

          Just the fact that you would refer to us as mere civilians tell us where your overlord mentality lies.

  • Sarpent

    Reading Patrick’s order, he neglected to exempt private plows from the ban. This seems like a serious oversight. Our neighborhood is plowed by private plows. Did Patrick really not think of this? How about the many thousands of people who have their driveways plowed? Are plow drivers really expected to risk a year in jail for what’s at minimum an ambiguous order?

    • Ben Swasey

      We were asking this in the newsroom, too. Here’s your answer: https://twitter.com/MassEMA/status/299989942803787776

      • Sarpent

        Thanks!

      • Thinkfreeer

        Ooh, thank you MEMA for allowing me to do something I don’t need your damn permission for in the first place.

    • Thinkfreeer

      He has changed the official title of the governor from his excellency to his assholiness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    well its past four o clock and i can still the grass on my lawn and the roads are closed?

  • JTinRI

    I listened to your report about the travel ban and it seems very incomplete. Stating that only “emergency vehicles” were permitted seems to miss the mark. As seen in some of the comments below, the published ban has ambiguities, it doesn’t really help that the on air report creates even more.

  • enoughalready

    I am so glad I no longer live in mass here in NH they want you off roads at 7pm but it ain’t mandatory ,What a dictator telling you when you can and can’t drive.

  • Pam

    The coverage on local tv has been about how severe the storm is with endless demonstrations and reports re it’s severityand advice to people in certain coastal and flood-prone areas to relocate.but stay off the roads.We get that it’s severe.This article,thankfully,addresses coping with the storm.
    How are they actually getting where they need to go and where are they going”How are people coping with the loss of electricity and heat?
    I hope to see less of reporters standing in the wind and telling us that it’s windy and more re what’s happening to MA residents caught in the storm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    when the king decides you may travel again he will let you know. The only one who should be banned from traveling is Tim Murrey

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    its sunny, the roads are clear and travel is banned for some reason. are they fencing us all in? what the hell?

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    Deval, Let my people go!

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    so which gets you in more trouble, violating the mandatory evacuation or the mandatory travel ban? looks like you will have to pick

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