As snow tapers, stories accumulate

SCITUATE — Waves crashed into homes along Oceanside Drive yesterday afternoon. The area saw flooding and fires earlier in the day. SCITUATE — Waves crashed into homes along Oceanside Drive yesterday afternoon. The area saw flooding and fires earlier in the day. (Bill Greene/ Globe Staff)
Globe Staff / December 28, 2010

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We awoke to a blizzard that did not sleep. We were pounded by waves and stranded in New York and Chicago. We were late for work because we had to shovel layers of snow and ice and fix snow blowers on the blink, and because our cars were towed. But as with every big snowstorm, it was not all about hardship. It was a day to sled, to see neighbors and friends, and to take in the beauty that comes along with the hassle a winter storm.

Every snowfall brings with it stories. These are some of them.

For 1st-time car owner, a lesson

Jordonna Brittle woke up excited yesterday. Like, really excited. She loves her car.

It is a blue 2007 Honda Accord. She calls it Mylan.

She just got it three months ago, after a year and a half of working four jobs to save up for it. And with the brunt of the blizzard over, the 20-year-old bundled up and left her home in the South End and went outside with the rest of the adults, the other car owners, to do that thing that car owners do after a heavy snowstorm.

For the first time, she was going to clean the snow off her car.

“I was really excited,’’ she said, again. “And I walked out to Columbus Avenue and there were no cars.’’

That was when she realized what those snow emergency signs mean. That was when she realized that Mylan had been towed. And that was when she started to cry.

A few hours and $105 later, Brittle was reunited with her car in the Boston Transportation Department tow lot on Frontage Road.

“If I know Jordonna, she’s apologizing to her [car],’’ said Phyllis Brittle, Jordonna’s mother, as she waited for her daughter to have her snow moment with the vehicle. “Every morning when she gets up, she looks out the window at Mylan.’’

After what seemed like too long for Phyllis, Jordonna, a sophomore at Framingham State University, finally appeared in her very-cleaned-off car.

“I told her I was sorry,’’ the daughter yelled to the mother, who just shook her head. “She doesn’t deserve to be towed and left out here in the cold.’’ — BILLY BAKER

Teen shovelers hope to capitalize

Mac Mainey and Matt Watts, two Southie teenagers, were out in the snow looking for girls.

“And old people,’’ said Mainey, 13.

“Yeah, they’re good, too,’’ added Watts, 14.

They had two shovels and nothing much to do, and they were out to make a couple bucks shoveling parking spaces. Women and the elderly were their best customers. As the sun got low in the sky, they stopped to check their smartphones, and Watts counted their cash.

“We’ve got $118,’’ Watts told Mainey.

“That’s not very good,’’ Mainey replied as he dashed off a text on his BlackBerry. “We’ve done better in the past.’’

They had been at it for about five hours and had shoveled six or seven cars, they figured.

“Usually they give us like $20 or $25,’’ Mainey said. “We don’t ask for it. We just walk by with the shovels and they come out and that’s what they give us.’’

Other than the “Marine-looking guy’’ who came out yelling when they shoveled in his car while shoveling out another, Mainey said the day had been uneventful.

As they walked down a street near Pleasure Bay, there were no customers, and most of the spots had already been shoveled.

Single-family “houses aren’t good,’’ Mainey said. “They have snow blowers and driveways and stuff. You need to go to the three-deckers. More people. More cars.’’ — BILLY BAKER

In R.I., sledding cures cabin fever

PROVIDENCE — This city’s after-storm chronology was a study in the psychology of snow.

At 6:30 a.m., a dog walker with two jumpy cocker spaniels came across a driver surveying dig-out possibilities for a snow-mired red sports car that was ill equipped to navigate a right turn on a badly plowed side street. She shook her head and continued on her way.

By 7:45 a.m., the first round of pickup trucks fitted with yellow plows drove slowly past homes, offering driveway specials for $20, no sidewalks. A battalion of twosomes soon followed on foot, orange shovels balancing on shoulders, promising skeptical homeowners to remove every fleck of snow from steps for $30. Cash.

At 9:30 a.m., the first wave of type-A drivers hit the streets, later converging at Seven Stars Bakery to ask anyone who would listen what was everyone so worried about and don’t all weather forecasters exaggerate? A cross-country skier glided past on a sidewalk.

And by 1 p.m., just when 20 hours or so of cabin fever were reaching a fever pitch, a collective conscience seemed to strike scores of kids at the same time: Go sledding. Now. Down the hill at the Moses Brown School. Children in pairs, in threes, fours, and fives hoisting flying saucers, Flexible Flyers, and super-fast inflatable round sleds converged at the top of the hill. It looked terrifying to 4-year-olds. Older kids giggled, worried that their running starts would take them so fast down the hill they would take out some tiny kids.

Waits soon extended two minutes, then five, then longer to make the 15- to 20-second trip down the hill. Those with the newest — and fastest — inflatable sleds let strangers take turns.

Eight-year-old Hannah Buchanan extended a hand to a little boy around 5 struggling up the slick hill side. “Come on,’’ the girl said patiently. “You need to get up so you can get down.’’

Buchanan’s family was supposed to go home to New York yesterday after visiting cousins in Rhode Island, but the weather altered their plans. The family thought they would be stuck inside all day, but by noon, they thought it safe to get out.

By 3 p.m., the wind had picked up and even the most diehard sledders were calling it quits.

At 4 p.m., it was hot chocolate time. — BETH DALEY

A day for family fun on Common

The wind gusting up a snowy hill on Boston Common lashed their faces, but dozens of children and parents could not stop smiling about the spectacle around them.

Snow blanketed the hills, creating a perfect place to try out new sleds, snowboards, and inner tubes.

Eight-year-old Jonathan Vilms, his hands firmly grasping the handles of a brightly colored inflatable tube that teetered atop of a hill, yelled out, “Daddy, I found out how to get a good ride on this.’’


Down the hill he went.

“It’s great to have a spot like this in the city,’’ said the boy’s father, Andres Vilms. “We love the snow.’’

Five-year-old Allison Vilms went further, proudly declaring that she liked winter more than summer.

“The snow is fun to play in,’’ Allison said.

Not so fun, she said, are those pesky stinging bees in the summer.

Seven-year-old Caitlin Poltack also had sledding on her mind as soon as she awakened yesterday. It marked her first sledding expedition of the year, and the first ever for her 2-year-old brother, Drew.

“They were up earlier than normal for a school vacation day,’’ said, her farther, David Poltack. “Seven a.m.’’ — JAMES VAZNIS

Storm quiets Hub hospitals

A howling nor’easter was invading, seas were cascading, and Boston’s ambulances and emergency rooms were . . . largely quiet. Two of the city’s biggest, busiest temples of crisis medicine, Boston Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital, reported that emergency volume was down Sunday and yesterday. Same with the crews of Boston’s Emergency Medical Services, which saw fewer calls than usual Sunday and, at best, a regular level of traffic yesterday. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, there was the usual flow of patients, but nothing strikingly out of the ordinary.

Surprising? Not really.

There is a long history of business plummeting for ER docs and paramedics during major weather disturbances. It happened, for example, in South Florida when a Category 5 hurricane, Andrew, raked swaths of that region in 1992.

Turns out that during bad weather people hunker down, which means they are not out engaged in behaviors that lead to encounters of the medical kind. So, fewer car accidents, fewer acts of violence.

It is also theorized that people who can defer a visit to the emergency room will, rather than walk willingly into the jaws of a biting gust.

The few hospital visits prompted by the storm tended to be the predictable: back strains and falls and the like. And ER reports revealed a nemesis of the assiduous — snow blowers. At both Boston Medical and Mass. General, patients turned up with hands injured by snow removal machinery. — STEPHEN SMITH

Business brisk at hardware store

NEEDHAM — Other Needham storefronts were dark and empty, but Harvey’s Hardware at 1004 Great Plain Ave. was bustling with customers who trekked through the snow and wind to mitigate their snowstorm needs.

Gary Katz, the owner, said he arrived at Harvey’s at 2:45 a.m. yesterday to clear snow for a delivery truck. The store opened promptly at 7 a.m., the regular opening time, with a half-dozen employees ready for the day’s commerce.

“Hey, we’re a hardware store, right guys,’’ said Katz. Sure enough, customers soon materialized.

Walter Schmid, 62, came in to get new shear pins for his broken snow blower. He had put off the repair last year, and it took him an hour to clear his driveway with his neighbor’s snow blower so he could drive to Harvey’s to get his own one fixed.

“And I have a big driveway,’’ said Schmid, who lives on High Street in Newton Upper Falls.

John Faggiano, a 43-year-old Needham resident, was checking out the sleds hanging on the brick wall outside the store. He was planning to buy a few for his four children to bring them to the hill at Needham High School.

“They don’t know; I’m going to surprise them,’’ said Faggiano, with a huge grin. “I’m just thankful I have the day off so I can take them.’’ — KATRINA BALLARD

Travelers cheer flight to Logan

WASHINGTON — There was both fear and the gnashing of teeth inside the terminal at Ronald Reagan National Airport here on Sunday afternoon among the travelers desperate to escape the winter storm and the nation’s capital.

At Gate 9, Jet Blue Flight 686 bound for Boston was scheduled to take off at 3:40 p.m. But in truth, most people assumed it would never leave the ground. Two earlier Jet Blue flights to Logan had already been canceled, and the window for more flights to Boston seemed to be closing fast. The crowd almost seemed resigned to spending the night.

But then the announcement came.

Flight 686 would fly! The crowd cheered.

The flight was bumpy, and took longer than usual, as the plane circled Logan for awhile. For the passengers, however, the flying wasn’t cause for as much concern as the landing in near-whiteout conditions. But the touchdown was smooth around 6 p.m.

The cab ride home to Jamaica Plain was not so smooth. But at least it wasn’t 30,000 feet in the air. — SAM ALLIS

In Chicago, a waiting game

CHICAGO — The airport snarls caught some travelers completely by surprise.

Rich McCampbell, his wife, Veronica Guerrero-Macia, their two children, John, 8, and Noel, 12, and Veronica’s mother, Cecilia Macia, arrived at Chicago’s Midway Airport before 7 a.m. yesterday for their 8 a.m. flight to Boston, after a Christmas visit to Veronica’s sister in Chicago.

“We didn’t think to check the weather,’’ Guerrero-Macia said. “It was fine in Chicago.’’

But as they searched the airport monitors for their flight’s boarding gate, the family was shocked to discover a long list of cancellations, including their own Southwest flight to Boston.

“We were completely caught off guard,’’ Guerrero-Macia said.

The next available flight, offered by Southwest, was four days later, on Dec. 31.

So the family was spending yesterday in the airport, trying to get on a flight on stand-by, with dwindling hopes of success.

“Since there’s five of us, it doesn’t look good,’’ said McCampbell, who lives in Milton.

After waiting six hours, John said he was “tired and bored.’’ The only positive, he said, was the variety of food his parents let him eat: popcorn, some fries, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a pair of clementines. — D.C. DENISON

Stranded, but still chasing story

BUFFALO — Every day, sports journalists scramble to bring the story to their audience. They give constant website updates to keep content fresh and meet tough deadlines for the newspaper. They follow the team from town to town.

But following Sunday’s Patriots game in Buffalo, the blizzard that battered Boston left some Globe reporters facing a broken play.

The team was stranded, and so were the journalists. But the Patriots had to stay an hour east in Rochester because Buffalo is hosting the World Junior Hockey Championships and had no rooms left. The reporters had held onto their reservations and were able to stay in the city. Globe NFL writer Greg Bedard went to see some hockey action on Sunday.

There was nothing in the playbook to leave this city. With all flights canceled yesterday, we tried desperately to rebook. But the next flights available would not depart until Thursday or Friday. One of our journalists got lucky. He had a flight today that returns to Boston this evening.

We tried to hire a minivan with a driver to take us to Boston.


We tried Amtrak.

No dice.

We tried to get bus tickets.

No service.

So now we will drop off a rental car in Rochester to pick up another sport utility vehicle and take two back to Boston. And yes, our reporters will provide Patriots news on the return to Boston — from the back seat, of course. — GREGORY LEE JR.

A picturesque scene at lake

WAKEFIELD — The plows on the road outnumbered the cars and pedestrians during the windy afternoon yesterday near Lake Quannapowitt. The swirling snow over the lake looked like something out of a picture book, and the only people near the white-covered body of water were two cross-country skiers, heading toward the center of town.

Most stores were closed, including the ice cream shop Cravings, an unusual sight because it usually stays open during the winter for its loyal customers.

Rose Gallagher, Rita Walker, and Charlotte Bonner chatted inside a Dunkin’ Donuts near the commuter rail station. The longtime Wakefield residents said, almost in unison, “We had to get out of the house and break bread about Christmas and the family. We needed to vent.’’

Outside, a driveway shoveler rated the snow as “medium’’ on the heaviness scale, and then went right on shoveling. — JUNE WULFF