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Fading blizzard leaves behind more power outages and damaging coastal flooding

Posted by Metro Desk  December 27, 2010 12:38 PM

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The still-fierce Christmas weekend nor’easter continues to disrupt life in Massachusetts today. Tens of thousands of people remained without power, and at least six communities opened shelters for residents seeking protection from howling winds and heavy, wet snow.

Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said at 11 a.m. that power outages are now impacting 45,000, an increase of some 20,000 over the outage reported at 6 a.m.

He said the number without power had increased as the shifting storm caused power lines to collapse and branches to sever lines in areas that had not been hit previously.

“That is certainly going to be a continuing issue for us,’’ Judge said of the power outages.

He said an estimated 60 people are now seeking warm and dry spaces at shelters opened in Hull, Quincy, Whitman and Hanson, Rockport, Salisbury, and Scituate.

Scituate, Judge said, so far has suffered the worse among coastal towns from the storm surge and the high tide at 3:30 a.m. today. He said the afternoon high tide, expected around 3 p.m., is not forecast to be as potent.

“Our concern still remains with the coastal region,’’ Judge said. “But in some communities like Scituate, there is lot of standing water in a lot of streets. And any additional water is certainly not going to be helpful.’’

Scituate, he said, was the coastal community facing the most danger from still-high flood waters. Dozens of people have been plucked from flooded or threatened homes by Scituate officials and Massachusetts National Guardsmen with heavy equipment.

“Scituate seems to be in the bull's-eye,’’ Judge said.

He said other coastal commnunities where streets routinely flood during high tides are experiencing that problem today.

Flights at Logan International Airport are expected to resume this afternoon. Virgin Airlines has canceled all flights today, according to Massport.

Massport kept Logan open and operating during the blizzard, but passenger airlines literally flew out of town and now must first bring aircraft back to Boston before flights out can resume, spokesman Phil Orlandella said.

State Police reported this morning that they were on the scene of a tractor-trailer rollover in Westborough that shut down two lanes of I-495. The crash took place around 6:15 a.m. and State Police are investigating a possible leak of diesel fuel from the damaged vehicle. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

State Police said they had responded to more than 100 crashes since 7 p.m. Sunday night, but none involved serious injuries.

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan said it could have been worse on the roads and the public transit system. “There’s no question that the timing of the storm helped us quite a bit,” he said, noting that many people were off work and children were out of school. In addition, an accurate forecast allowed the state time to coordinate internally and warn the public.

The MBTA ran with only moderate rush hour interruptions and major roadways were mostly clear by mid-morning, Mullan said.

About 35 bus routes were altered during rush hour to avoid tough turns and inclines. Most passengers experienced delays of 30 minutes to an hour, which had tapered down significantly by midday.

Commuter rail, subway, and trolley service was also generally reliable, with only the antique Mattapan trolley shut down because of concerns that snow would disrupt the old trolley engines. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that 85 percent of rush hour subway and trolleys ran without substantial disruptions. Commuter rail delays ranged from 15 minutes on many lines to an hour on the Old Colony lines that travel between the South Shore and Boston.

Mullan said between 3,500 and 4,000 pieces of snow removal equipment, running through the evening and morning, allowed the state to clear most major roads, even though it took some time to get ahead of the heavy snowfall. Boston city roads also appeared to be clearing, though some seldom-used roads were left unplowed. Car crashes were limited, with Interstate 495 experiencing the most.

“This storm will not be remembered for accidents. It will be remembered for advanced planning and people heading the warning to stay home,” Mullan said.

Today the remnants of the blizzard are expected to impact eastern and central Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connection and New Hampshire, the weather service said.

“This storm will pull away from southern New England later today with snow tapering off from west to east,’’ the weather service said. “Strong winds will continue into tonight.’’

The weather service has been collecting damage reports from people around the region. The majority of damage has been caused by falling tree limbs that have hit cars, blocked roads, or knocked down power lines. Snowfall totals are posted here.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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