Weather & National Disasters

Snow Leaves Transit Delays, Closings

By WGBH News   |   Thursday, January 27, 2011
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BOSTON — A winter storm that dumped heavy snow across the region overnight left travel delays, scattered power outages and school closings and delays Thursday morning.

Residents of Kinnaird St. in Cambridge shoveled out cars, driveways and sidewalks Thursday morning. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

As of 9:00 a.m., the number of power outages was down to 1,440 total, mostly in Plymouth County. 

Many MBTA busses are running on snow routes for the Thursday morning commute, and the T's D-line is bussing passengers from Reservoir to Kenmore due to a weather-related track problem.

As of 8:30 a.m., the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported over 3,900 pieces of equipment were out clearing the roads.

Overall, the storm left up to a foot in some parts of the state, adding to the growing piles of snow along roadsides and driveways. Cambridge city manager Richard Heal said city's have to take care that, in clearing roads, they don't further clutter sidewalks. 

"We do have a pedestrian operation that begins concurrently with the street plowing operation…we pay attention to all the city owned sidewalk and to all the pedestrian ramps," Heal said. "It’s inevitable that a plow might come by and plow in a pedestrian ramp, but it will be shoveled out."

Tell us: Is the snow disrupting your day? Your month? How are you dealing with it?

Snow Expected To Snarl PM Commute

By Jess Bidgood and Andrea Smardon   |   Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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BOSTON — The third winter storm in as many weeks arrived in Boston Thursday afternoon as snowflakes began falling over the city.

Thus began the storm that's put much of East and South Massachusetts under a winter storm warning -- with Central Massachusetts and parts of Western Massachusetts looking at a winter storm watch. 

"It's just another one of the seemingly endless number of winter storms we've been having," quipped Alan Dunham of the National Weather Service. The heaviest snow is expected to begin Wednesday evening and last through the midnight hours.

"The snow will move in during the course of the day, it'll start messing up the latter half of the evening commute," said Dunham said, predicting that wet snow combined with high winds could cause slippery roads and low visibility.

"We sometimes refer to that as 'heart attack snow,' you have to be careful," Dunham said.

By the time of the storm's predicted end, around 10 a.m. Thursday, parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut could see 8 to 12 inches of snow.

The MBTA's General Manger Richard Davey says the transit authority will be working overtime to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

"Folks can expect the MBTA to be in place, our team to be in place to make sure that we’re giving every effort for tomorrow’s commute," Davey said.

But he admitted the likelihood of problems on bus lines. "Given that and given the weather, I’m sure there will be some delays." 

Davey said commuter rail and rapid transit shouldn’t have as many problems as they had on Monday and Tuesday – when extreme cold temperatures wreaked havoc on mechanical systems. Davey says the MBTA will be running trains overnight during off hours to resolve any issues before the morning commute.

Record Cold Freezes Northeast

By WGBH News   |   Monday, January 24, 2011
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Jan. 24, 2011

BOSTON — Most of Massachusetts is under wind-chill warnings or advisories Monday, as an Arctic high-pressure system brings temperatures well below zero across the Northeast.

The coldest areas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will dip to 30 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit), with the wind chill expected to drop to 50 below zero in some spots. In Boston the temperature is hovering around zero, as it is in Providence. But wind chill could make the air feel as cold at 20 degrees below zero.

Frostbite can develop in just 30 minutes at these temperatures, so those venturing outside are advised to dress in layers with a hat and gloves at minimum.

The deep freeze is expected to moderate by Tuesday, when highs are predicted to be in the mid-30's — with a chance of snow. 

Snow, Sleet Make For Slippery Mass. Roads

By Jess Bidgood   |   Tuesday, January 18, 2011
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Jan. 18, 2011

Officials expect Tuesday night's commute to be slow going. On Tuesday afternoon, vehicles traveled slowly on the Mass. Pike in Brighton. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)  

BOSTON — A winter storm is blanketing Massachusetts with snow, sleet and freezing rain, creating dangerous road conditions around the state as Tuesday evening's commute looms.

The unpredictable storm dropped snow on Boston until early Tuesday afternoon, while bringing rain to Massachusetts' coast.

"As the day goes on, warmer air is going to move into at least the Eastern part of the state, eventually changing at least the city of Boston into rain," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Much of Western and Central Massachusetts are under a winter storm warning Tuesday. (National Weather Service)

Moving West, Buttrick said, things are looking icier. "There is a threat for sleet and freezing to continue in Western and Central Massachusetts, up into Northeast Massachusetts," Buttrick said.

Luisa Paiewonsky, the highway administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), said that will keep roads dicey well into Tuesday evening.

"The snow has changed over to freezing rain and that's created difficult conditions on the highways," 

Paiewonsky said. "We expect the evening's commute to be slow going."

By early Tuesday afternoon, MassDOT had already received reports of a number of spinouts and three reports of jack-knifed tractor trailers.

"We are strongly urging people to slow down and to make sure their speeds match the roadway conditions," Paiewonsky said.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the snow and ice accretion expected in Central and Western Massachusetts; there is a winter weather advisory affecting the Eastern part of the state, due to snow accumulation and light ice accretion. 

In JP, Social Networking Helps Neighbors Dig Out

By Jess Bidgood   |   Friday, January 14, 2011
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Jan. 14, 2010 (Updated Jan. 27)

Loay  Abdelkarim shoveled in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday, having been dispatched via Joseph Porcelli's SnowCrew project. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

Update, Jan. 27: The SnowCrew has continued their work for a couple of blizzards now, and is heading out again to deal with the 12 inches of snow dropped by the Jan. 26 and 27 winter storm. 

JAMAICA PLAIN — After a blizzard, New Englanders know the drill. Mounds of snow leave cars buried, driveways blocked and sidewalk indistinguishable from street. In order to brave still-slippery roads to get back to work or school or anything normal, you have to dig yourself out.
Given that the Boston area got up to 18 inches during this week’s snowstorm — and parts of Western Massachusetts received as much as 30 — shoveling out this blizzard was no small task for the strongest of Massachusetts folk. But the snowfall was an even bigger problem for elderly or disabled individuals who can’t shovel for themselves.
In a corner of Jamaica Plain, people plodded into the snow as the blizzard wound down on Wednesday to help their neighbors, guided by a labyrinth of social technology that fused Google Maps and text messages with Twitter, Facebook, email and a tailor-made social networking site.

Snow piled up in the narrow main streets of Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood after Wednesday's snowstorm. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

It’s a pilot project that you could call “Shoveling 2.0,” and it starts with longtime JP resident Joseph Porcelli. The day after the storm, he sat in the front room of his apartment as people trickled inside, swaddled in snowpants, hats and boots.
“Have we met before?” asks Porcelli, shaking the hand of a tall, gray-haired man.
“No, I just text-messaged you,” answers Jay Pendexter, an artist who lives a few streets over. “I got an email about it and they said they wanted to get some people together to shovel, so here I am.”

Porcelli, 34, works as a social-technology consultant, but this is a guinea-pig side project. On his laptop screen, there’s a Google map with dots for houses, cars and businesses that need to be shoveled out.

The map also plots the addresses and cell phone numbers of people who have volunteered to help. Porcelli is using software called GroundCrew  — first developed as a political organizing tool  — to assign volunteers to each shoveling site.
Porcelli and his co-shovelers used Twitter, Facebook and a local social network Porcelli founded called Neighbors For Neighbors to get the word out. By the time the blizzard was winding down, they’d identified about 20 sites that need shoveling and more than 30 people had used email and text message to let Porcelli know they were ready to help.
“We’re going to go out in teams today,” Porcelli says to the eight people now gathered in his living room. “Roy’s just figuring out what our last locations are.”
Porcelli holds up his laptop, where the face of his friend Roy Krantz can be seen via videochat. It’s Roy’s job to coordinate everyone’s shoveling missions.
“We’ve got a house on Day Street that needs to be done, that’s just a sidewalk,” Porcelli says, listing sites and assigning shoveling groups to them. “There’s a couple of really small businesses that can’t get here in time because of the traffic, and some of those small businesses can’t afford the tickets we get, so it’s been requested we help.”

Joseph Porcelli, center, and Roy Krantz, via videochat, assign volunteers to shoveling sites. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

Missions assigned, the group heads out.

The first stop is a car a few doors down the street. The whole group pounces on it, shoveling around the wheels and scraping ice off the windows.
One of them is Tori Hatch, a research technician who’s lived in JP for almost 20 years. She can’t believe what she’s seeing.
“Eight people shoveled out a buried car in, that’s gotta be a world record, without messing up the sidewalk,” Hatch remarked.
For Hatch, coming out to help was a no-brainer. “I’m able-bodied and I can, and it’s fun to do stuff with other people,” Hatch said.
But she said she probably wouldn’t have made it out if the emails and text messages hadn’t allowed her to show up where and when she wanted to. “It was 4:00 in the afternoon when I saw the (alert) saying, ‘We’re getting together at 4:30.’ So if it hadn’t been quite immediate, it wouldn’t have happened at all.”

Loay Abdelkarim, another shoveler, thinks the technology took the headache out of trying to coordinate an unknown number of volunteers with an unknown number of shoveling sites during a storm of unknown duration. All of that uncertainty, he said, makes it hard to reach out to your neighbors in a large, dense neighborhood like JP.
“Being able to passively receive the information I needed is what made it possible,” Abdelkarim said. “Technology made it possible for me to live in a village, as opposed to what I am in, in a very large community.”
The group fanned out and shoveled out more cars and sidewalks, hitting almost 20 by the end of the evening.
Across town, Laurie Liebster drank tea on her couch, tearing up because her car had been shoveled out that day.
Liebster suffers from back and foot injuries that were exacerbated when she shoveled her car out in December’s blizzard. Now, she can’t do it at all. So when she saw the open call for homeowners in need of shoveling help, she signed up.

Tori Hatch and Loay Abdelkarim shoveled in Jamaica Plain on Wednesday, having been dispatched via Joseph Porcelli's SnowCrew project. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

“Since I hurt my foot, I felt really stranded a lot,” Liebster said. She works in elder care, and would have had to stay home Thursday if she hadn’t had help.
“It meant a lot to me, more than like a service, like, ‘You got my cars out’ “ Liebster said. “It’s like I’m part of a neighborhood that wants to give back and wants to be a part of something.”
Porcelli plans to take the lessons he learned shoveling on Wednesday and apply them to other neighborhood activities, like picking up donations or helping the elderly with their groceries.
But as his snow crew retired to a local pub together, and Liebster prepared for work the next day, the project, it seemed, had already made a difference  — one driveway and one neighbor at a time.


Sign up for the JP SnowCrew

Could this work in your neighborhood? Leave a comment.

Outages, Cancelations Linger In Wake Of Snowstorm

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Thursday, January 13, 2011
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Jan. 13, 2010

People are digging out their driveways, homes and bicycles on Thursday -- like this one in Central Square. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON -- Emergency crews and homeowners around Massachusetts are working to shake-off the aftereffects of a snowstorm that knocked out power to 100,000 residents, kept all flights from going in and out of Logan Airport, pushed down branches and trees and caused thousands of school and workplaces to be closed.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of schools were still closed or delayed, and at least hundreds of customers remained without power.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who declared a state of emergency during the height of the blizzard, asked residents still dealing with no power to remain patient.

"Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to light a fire under the utilities and have them respond to you," Patrick said during a briefing on Wednesday.

He also said drivers should continue to exercise caution on roadways, which may not yet be perfectly clear. "The residue will linger for a while and the ramps will be slippery, but cleanup will continue and just keep an eye out for folks who are doing that work on your behalf," Patrick said.

As dangerous as roads were on Wednesday, no major accidents or injuries have been reported.

The storm left up to 30 inches in Western Massachusetts, around 18 inches on Boston and half-a-foot on Cape Cod.

About the Authors
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 
Jess Bidgood Jess Bidgood
Jess Bidgood is's news editor and producer.
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.


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