Blizzard 2015: New England Buried, NYC Lifts Travel Ban –

Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The coast of New England was clobbered on Tuesday by a blizzard every bit as ferocious as forecasters feared — 2½ feet of snow, wind as strong as a hurricane and icy waves powerful enough to shake houses.

All of Nantucket island lost power, and an 80-foot section of seawall collapsed in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Boston was socked with 21 inches of snow. Nurses and doctors hitched rides with police or put on skis and snowshoes to get to work.

The blizzard set up farther east than forecasters expected, and New York and Philadelphia got little more than an ordinary winter storm. Subways rolled back to life, and the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lifted driving bans.

It was enough of a miss that the National Weather Service felt compelled to explain itself on Facebook, and one meteorologist offered a public apology on Twitter. But in New England, the blizzard matched the direst fears.

Just after 2 p.m., the town of Auburn, Massachusetts, reported 32.5 inches of snow, and it was still coming down. Thompson, Connecticut, came in at 30.5 inches. Burrillville, Rhode Island, got just shy of 2 feet.

Image: Water floods a street on the coast in Scituate, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 27Michael Dwyer / AP

Image:Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger via AP

“There is about 4 feet of water in the street in front of the house,” Eric Murphy, a pest control worker, told NBC News from his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts. “We do get flooding here, but this is the worst I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve lived here. My house is on stilts, but another few inches and we might be in trouble.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said that Boston transit would remain closed at least until Wednesday, and Mayor Marty Walsh said schools could be closed through Thursday. “We’re still very much in the middle of this storm,” he told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

A nuclear power plant in Plymouth shut down automatically when the power went out, but authorities said the public was not in danger.

The strongest gust from the blizzard was recorded on Nantucket — 78 mph, as powerful as a low-grade hurricane.

In Rhode Island, gusts were as strong as 53 mph. A 110-foot replica of the 18th century tall ship Providence blew over on its side and in Newport Shipyard and broke its mast, the owner told New England Cable News.

Air travel was all but shut down across much of the Northeast. In all, more than 7,700 flights were wiped out Monday and Tuesday because of the blizzard. Stranded passengers were lined up on cots along a window at LaGuardia Airport in New York with no idea when they could fly.

“I started to read and I dozed off,” said Cynthia Maynard, who expected to be marooned for a second straight night as she tried to get home to Nassau, Bahamas. All the nearby hotels were full.

The cots were fine, she told NBC News from the food court, but “you don’t sleep soundly, no, by no stretch of the imagination.”

And at John F. Kennedy Airport, passengers on at least one outbound Virgin Atlantic flight were stranded when their flight to London was canceled after six hours on the tarmac.

“There’s nothing to drink, nothing to eat. It’s a disaster,” said Alexis Dehasse, a music producer who was aboard Virgin Atlantic Flight 4 to London, which was supposed to take off at 6:30 p.m. ET Monday but dumped passengers back at the gate after midnight after dealing with de-icing and a sick passenger.

The official snow total was 9.8 inches in Central Park. As late as Monday afternoon, the weather service had predicted 24 to 36 inches for parts of the city. Forecasters had to backpedal when the storm moved east.

“The science of forecasting storms, while continually improving, still can be subject to error, especially if we’re on the edge of the heavy precipitation shield,” the weather service’s New York office said on its Facebook page. “Efforts, including research, are already underway to more easily communicate that forecast uncertainty.”

Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Mount Holly, New Jersey, who apologized in a series of tweets:

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said schools would be open Wednesday. He and Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended their decisions to close transit and order drivers off the road, saying that people could have died if the storm had lived up to forecasts.

The governor told a morning press conference that he has been berated in the past for criticizing the weather service, and he seemed hesitant to do so again.

“On the theory of live and learn, and a little wiser, weather forecasters do the best they can,” he said.

Tracy Connor, Tom Costello, Elisha Fieldstadt, Hasani Gittens, Alastair Jamieson, M. Alex Johnson, Andrew Rafferty, Michael Rubenstein, Jon Schuppe and Shamar Walters of NBC News contributed to this report.


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