Another round: Snowstorm has the coast in crosshairs

Just two days after a storm dumped more than a foot of snow in some parts of the state, another nor’easter walloped Massachusetts on Saturday and residents prepared to dig out yet again during an unusually harsh winter.

Thousands of residences lost power along the South Shore and on Cape Cod, including more than 5,700 households in Plymouth and Sandwich, as winds were forecast to be gusting over 60 miles per hour into the early morning. Power was later restored to many of the homes. More than 100 flights scheduled to depart from Logan International Airport were canceled Saturday.

Areas along the Interstate 91 corridor that were hit hardest by Thursday’s snow, such as Ludlow and Southwick, were expected to be spared the worst of the storm. Instead, coastal areas that got off easy earlier in the week bore the brunt, with forecasters predicting a foot of snow in a swath of communities south of Boston, 8 to 12 inches east of Interstate 95, and 12 to 18 inches in Plymouth County.

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Snow began falling in Boston around 1 p.m., but the storm was expected to drop the most snow between 6 p.m. and midnight before blowing out of the region by dawn Sunday, according to the National Weather Service’s Taunton office.

The snow was wet and heavy, which had forecasters warning that roof collapses were possible and utility companies positioning crews in anticipation of power outages.

At a Saturday afternoon news conference at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham, Governor Deval Patrick urged drivers to be cautious and warned that extended power outages were possible.

Asked about rumored shortages of road salt, Patrick said the state had enough for now.

“MassDOT is all right for about another week,” he said, but added, “We won’t be all right if we continue having weather events like this.”

While most municipalities declared snow emergencies and enacted parking bans, the city of Boston did not. Kate Norton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh, said in a prepared statement that the city was worried that residents traveling for school vacation week would return home to find that their cars had been towed and stored for days.

“The city was confident that we could keep up with the snow removal without having to call a parking ban that would severely impact residents,” Norton wrote. “The city has the long weekend to exercise snow removal operations before many people return to work, and with school out we would not have to prioritize snow clearing at school bus stops or contend with buses and significant commuter traffic.”

Before Thursday’s storm, Boston had used $12 million of its $18.5 million snow removal budget. Many nearby towns and cities blew through their budgeted snow funds in January, while the state owes plow contractors more than $30 million in back pay after exhausting its $43 million budget.

Sara Lavoie, a spokeswoman for MassDOT, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 plows and other pieces of road-treating equipment would work through the night to clear roads.

“We’ve had a lot of practice this winter,” Lavoie said. “We’re fortunate it’s the weekend when traffic is lighter.”

At Logan International Airport on Saturday, travelers anxiously scrutinized screens listing flight delays and cancellations. Some tried to snag seats on earlier flights, attempting to escape the city before the worst of the storm hit Saturday night.

Flights full of families traveling during school vacation week, along with cascading delays from other snowed-in airports, had travelers worried about rebooking flights.

At the airport Saturday afternoon, Patty and Barry Roberts, along with their twin 14-year-old boys who are on school vacation from Duxbury High School, were staring down a five-hour-plus wait for a US Airways flight to West Palm Beach, Fla.

The plane was scheduled to depart at 12:30 p.m., but Patty Roberts said the airline called earlier to say it would be delayed three hours because of the snow and because “so many flights were in the air trying to dodge the snow.”

She joked that the group might become one of the disheveled families shown on TV news after spending a night sleeping at the gate. “What are your choices?” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “When you choose to travel in February this is the risk you take.”

JetBlue, Logan’s busiest airline, said in an e-mailed statement that it had canceled 371 flights since Wednesday and had “thinned” its operations in anticipation of the storm. JetBlue customers who saw their flights to weather-affected airports canceled can rebook through Wednesday, the airline said.

Sunday temperatures were expected to creep into the upper 30s, but dip into the teens Sunday night. That could create black ice and slippery conditions on roadways Monday, forecasters said, though the Presidents Day holiday should mean lighter traffic than usual.

Another mix of wintry weather could arrive Tuesday, but forecasters on Saturday were unsure whether it would bring rain or snow.

On Cape Cod, where Valentine’s Day and school vacation week can give a bump in business to inns during the slow winter season, innkeepers were preparing for the storm.

The Chatham Bars Inn had not seen many cancellations as the snow fell Saturday afternoon, according to a manager there. Guests, mostly couples on a Valentine’s Day weekend escape with some families getting away for school vacation, were enjoying the dining room and watching the Olympics events in Sochi on televisions.

“New Englanders seem to be traveling. We have a full house; we’re doing fantastic,” said manager Michael Briggs.

All three rooms in the small High Pointe Inn in West Barnstable were filled this weekend, co-owner Debra Howard said.

“We have a generator; we’re preparing for the worst,” she said. “If it happens, everybody has extra flashlights and lanterns in their rooms, and we can provide them with a hot breakfast in the morning.”

The back-to-back storms added to what has been an unusually snowy winter. Through Friday, National Weather Service instruments in Boston had tallied 49.5 inches of snow since Dec. 1, nearly double the average of 27.3 inches over the same period.

“If we go on at this pace, we’re going to have a banner year for snowfall,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Charlie Foley. “Things could die off, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Foley said New England is hardly the only part of the country experiencing unusual weather this winter, with snow falling in the deep South and parts of California experiencing historic drought.

“It’s been a strange weather pattern this season for most of the country,” he said.

The main culprit, Foley said, is the abnormally serpentine path of the jet stream, a steady flow of air that travels west to east across the United States.