Winter Storm Whips East, Puts Brakes On Travelers

New Englanders were cleaning up from a fierce winter storm that stranded travelers, knocked out power to tens of thousands and battered coastal communities with highs winds and heavy surf.

Snow totals climbed above 18 inches in the Boston area, less than the two feet reported north of New York City or the 29 inches the East Coast blizzard left behind in portions of northern New Jersey.

The snow created plenty of sledding opportunities for vacationing school children and was greeted by New England ski operators who plan to take advantage of the white stuff during the holiday break.

But it was little consolation for residents forced to leave their homes after ocean waves churned up by the strong winds crashed over sea walls at high tide.

"Its probably the most flooding we've had in 17 years," said John Danehey, chairman of the board of selectmen in Scituate, Mass.

Logan International Airport in Boston and regional airports in Manchester, N.H., and Portland, Maine, remained open but were largely deserted Monday, as flights throughout the country were disrupted by the massive storm. Airlines serving Logan resumed operations in the afternoon, but officials predicted it would take days to catch up.

In Manchester, transportation security workers stood idle at their posts early Monday, no passengers for them to screen.

Sitting alone at a table in the food court was Alicia Kinney, a 25-year-old mission worker from Columbus, Ohio. Her flight to Newark, N.J., was canceled, and Continental could not get her a confirmed seat until Wednesday. Kinney slept overnight on benches in the baggage claim area before moving up to the food court for a soda in the morning.

"I came at 4 p.m. (Sunday) and got a standby seat to Cleveland, but at the last minute, that flight was canceled. By then, it was too bad outside for my friends to come back and get me," Kinney said. "It's a funny situation. I'm trying to stay positive."

Also impacted were New Englanders who had traveled over for the holiday and were attempting to get home.

Beau Vestal, 35, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Lamantia, 27, were stranded in Cleveland when their flight home to Providence, R.I., was canceled on Sunday.

"There was no official announcement and then I got into the line for three hours," Vestal said. "It was a madhouse, there were thousands of people with children, and tons of Christmas gifts. It was just nuts."

The couple, both chefs at a Providence restaurant, were not scheduled to leave Cleveland until Wednesday night.

Howling winds and heavy wet, snow brought down power lines in many areas, knocking out electricity and adding to the storm's misery for thousands of residents. Early Tuesday, National Grid was reporting just over 12,000 customers without power in Massachusetts and scattered outages in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 68 mph on Cape Cod, 52 mph at Logan International Airport in Boston and 54 mph in Providence.

The storm's timing - on school vacation - and with many states telling non-essential workers to stay home gave snowplow drivers a bit of a break. In Connecticut, state workers had a furlough day. And in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci closed state offices and declared a state of emergency.

In Boston, where a snow emergency was lifted at 6 p.m. on Monday, the financial district normally bustling with workers was nearly empty and traffic was light.

In Scituate, one flooded home caught fire and the flames spread to a second home, forcing firefighters to rescue occupants by boat. No injuries were reported. The town set up an emergency shelter and National Guard troops assisted residents forced to leave their homes, Danehey said.

Flooding was also reported in Quincy and in Rockport, Mass., where some residents voluntarily evacuated from a section of town called Bearskin Neck, police said.

At the Kennebunk Rest Area of the Maine Turnpike, Canadian trucker Wilfred Deveau spent the night waiting for the weather to clear. He was ordered off the road at about 10 p.m. Sunday by his employer. He's hauling a load of French fries from New Brunswick to Pennsylvania.

Deveau said the storm hit all at once.

"It's like you hit a wall - boom, you couldn't see anything," he said of the conditions before he got off the turnpike.

Police in Wells, Maine, said Richard Folsom, 59, of Wells, died several hours after his pickup crashed into a tree during whiteout conditions Sunday night.

And in Newport, Maine, a tractor-trailer loaded with wood chips careened into a house early Monday, wiping out a sun room and leaving the home's elderly occupants stunned.

"I thought it was a bomb. It was loud and shaky," said Marguerite Fowler, 81, who reported that she and her husband had been sound asleep. "We don't need all that excitement at our age."

But the winter storm was mostly welcome in Vermont, where hopes were high of motivating more skiers to come to the slopes.

"Things are looking up as a holiday season," said Jenn Butson, a spokeswoman for the Vermont Ski Areas Association. "People are quite giddy right now."

In Glastonbury, Conn., Vernon Pecker, 57, of East Hartford, made two trips the hardware store in search of a metal pin for his snowblower, which broke a few hours earlier from the force of the snow. He had three driveways ahead of him to clear, but said he didn't mind the wicked weather.

"It's New England. The snow's not bad. It gets me out of the house," he said.

This program aired on December 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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