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Keep on slogging

Storm’s effects linger with closed schools, outages, and icy side streets

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By Michael Levenson and Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / January 13, 2011

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A classic New England nor’easter promised to disrupt life again today after knocking out power for tens of thousands, sending trees crashing into homes and cars, causing spinouts and accidents, and paralyzing major rail and air travel yesterday.

Although the damage was less than feared yesterday as residents heeded official warnings to stay at home and off the roads, Massachusetts was still struggling under a heavy, wet blanket of snow, up to 30 inches in some parts of the Berkshires and more than 18 inches in sections of the Boston area, according to unofficial figures from the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Boston officials canceled school for a second day today and urged residents to once again avoid driving. Major arteries were cleared yesterday, but crews will be out again today and the next few days working on secondary roads, many of which remained clogged and icy. The job was complicated by fallen trees, parked cars blocking their paths, and residents and business owners shoveling snow back into the streets not to mention snow mounds left from the last major storm late last month.

“For those who are back on the roads, just exercise caution,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said at a press conference last evening. “The residue from the storm will linger for a while.’’

Officials urged residents to use public transit, at least for the rest of the week.

“I think they’ll find they’re in for a much more pleasurable experience if they leave their cars at home the next few days and allow us to continue the work of opening the city, allowing the city to look as it should look and operate as it should operate,’’ said Thomas J. Tinlin, Boston’s transportation commissioner. “Grab a newspaper, jump on a bus, jump on a subway,’’ he advised.

A parking ban will remain in effect in Boston until 9 a.m., Boston polioce said.

MBTA officials said they expect a normal commute today, with one exception: possible delays on the commuter rail’s Providence/Stoughton Line, where dispatch is handled by Amtrak, which suspended all Acela and Northeast Regional trains between Boston and New York yesterday.

The T expected all ferries to be running this morning and also planned to have the Mattapan trolley back in service after it was suspended yesterday. Even so, T officials urged commuters to check the agency’s website for service alerts before traveling today.

Airlines, which canceled all their flights yesterday morning at Logan International Airport, Manchester Boston Regional Airport, and T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., resumed some flights last night and expected a normal schedule at some point today.

Logan spokesman Phil Orlandella said the airport expects to have two runways operating today and airlines were “trying to gear up’’ for early-morning flights, though schedules could change.

A smattering of flights departed Logan last night, including international flights bound for London, Toronto, and Iceland, according to the Logan online flight tracker.

Yesterday’s storm, which crept up the Eastern Seaboard and hurtled into the state after midnight, paralyzed swaths of the region yesterday with blizzardlike conditions before churning toward Nantucket and Newfoundland last night.

Most schools and many businesses were closed and many communities were quiet and still, save for growling snowplows and trudging residents who fought the blistering winds, biting cold, and blowing snow on their morning commute.

Patrick declared a state of emergency and called up 250 National Guard troops to help residents, if necessary, reach emergency shelters.

By midday, during the brunt of the storm, about 100,000 residents lost power, including 30,000 in the Bridgewater area and 6,900 in Boston, as frozen tree limbs cracked under the weight of sopping snow and snapped power lines.

All but about 100 National Grid customers had regained power in Bridgewater by late last night, the utility said, and about 7,000 customers statewide were still without service. NStar reported 3,800 customers without service in the state last night, mostly in Greater Boston and communities near Walpole.

The storm transformed Boston into a muffled landscape of scraping shovels and gleeful children savoring a day off from school. Whole neighborhoods became rolling hill towns of white, as residents emerged from their homes to find the city had morphed as they slept.

“It’s a beautiful day when it’s a snowstorm; the environment changes,’’ said Dean Russell, who spent the day at Jamaica Pond sledding with his two children. “It’s peaceful. It’s ground-breaking. It’s a change of pace, and it’s good for people,’’ he said.

Peggy Hoffman, 48, tromped through Boston Common on snowshoes, taking photographs to send to her mother in Arizona.

“It’s been pretty awesome,’’ the nursing student said. “I love the snow.’’

It seems the only work many did was shovel, and even that didn’t seem so bad to some stoic Bostonians.

“It’s a typical New England winter,’’ shrugged Steve McGinn, a building superintendent, as he shoveled downtown. “I would advise you, if you don’t have to do anything, go home and rot in front of your TV,’’ he added.

Tracy Shea of Charlestown came out of her Cordis Street home to see a large tree that had fallen onto two cars. “Thank god it’s not mine,’’ she said, as she shoveled and her children played around her. The tree was blocking her street, but she didn’t care.

“Everyone’s working from home, or should be,’’ said Shea, who works in real estate.

Some of the heaviest snowfall yesterday struck Berkshire County, where Savoy got 34.5 inches of snow and the town of Florida received 33 inches, the Weather Service said. More than 20 inches blanketed several communities, including Wilmington, Winchester, Hampden, and Chelmsford, according to unofficial tallies from the Weather Service.

In Bridgewater yesterday, about two dozen residents, mostly elderly, arrived at an emergency shelter at the Williams Intermediate School, not far from the town center.

Maria Serrano was volunteering there, even though her own house lost power and she had her thee children with her. “We’re here to basically make sure everybody is comfortable and that they get food as needed,’’ Serrano said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time talking with the elderly, just to make sure they aren’t having any problems.’’

Town Manager Troy Clarkson said Bridgewater’s response was well-coordinated as firefighters went door-to-door to check on residents in two housing facilities. “Other than moving folks out of their homes here, which can be a good thing, increasing the socialization in town, we haven’t had any major problems,’’ he said.

On the highways, state officials reported dozens of accidents, including a truck that jackknifed and spilled fuel on a ramp onto Interstate 90 in Sturbridge and a tractor-trailer unit that jackknifed on Interstate 93 in Methuen.

Although much of the MBTA ran on or near schedule, the transportation authority experienced more problems than during the snowstorm late last month. A software glitch caused problems on the T’s website for several hours in the morning, just as riders were turning to the site to check for service outages and delays. And while the Orange, Red, and Blue subway lines ran with minimal disruptions, the D branch of the Green Line was disrupted by a 35-foot tree that crashed onto overhead power lines, forcing the T to run shuttle buses until afternoon.

The storm also forced the T to reroute about one in every five bus routes and to suspend the Hull and Hingham ferries. On the commuter rail, trains experienced delays of 15 minutes or more and one had a minor crash.

Train number 454, an inbound Fitchburg train running from South Acton to North Station, was slowing for a stop at Brandeis/Roberts in Waltham at about 9:45 a.m. 40 minutes behind schedule when a car on Waltham’s South Street skidded into the gate at the crossing, broke through the gate arms, and collided with the side of the train. No one was seriously injured.

Akilah Johnson, Brian Ballou, Milton J. Valencia, Stephen Smith, Travis Andersen, and Katie Johnston Chase of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com; Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.