BOSTON — Snow and dangerously high winds roared across parts of New England in the dark of night to face an army of road crews and emergency workers Feb. 15, who had readied themselves for the fourth winter onslaught in less than a month. The odds favored the ominous weather.
More than 6 feet of snow already stood in some areas from previous storms; a blizzard warning was in effect for coastal communities from Connecticut to Maine into Feb. 16; and a bone-chilling blast of cold, with lows of minus 10 degrees was in the Feb. 15 night forecast in parts of the region.
Heavy snow had moved into parts of eastern Massachusetts by early Feb. 15, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham.
Three to eight inches of snow had fallen across parts of the region with the heaviest in Boxford in Essex County, which recorded 13 inches, Dunham said. Boston was also getting hit with heavy snow. Winds across the area were also increasing in intensity.
Before it is all over, southern New England could get several more inches and Maine could see up to 2 feet, weather forecasters said.
“On Sunday, the best thing people can do is stay home, stay indoors,” said William Babcock, another weather service meteorologist.
Gov. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Gov. Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island warned motorists to stay off the roads. Baker stopped short of an outright travel ban.
“I can’t stress this enough,” Baker said. “Please stay off the roads … so the crews can do the work they need to do to remove this snow.”
Transportation officials in the region had taken precautions. Nearly 400 Sunday flights were canceled at Boston’s Logan International Airport, and none was scheduled Feb. 15th morning. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority canceled all rail, bus and ferry service in the Boston area on Sunday.
Babcock said gusts could max out at 75 mph — hurricane territory — on Cape Cod. Officials warned of possible power outages, and north-facing or vulnerable coastal areas could suffer flooding and beach erosion, the weather service said.
Ahead of the storm, forces gathered to remove piles of snow and ready for the next round.
Massachusetts called up hundreds of National Guard troops to assist with snow removal, and the Hanscom Air Force base outside Boston became a staging area for heavy equipment pouring in from eight other Northeast states to help in the effort.
Crews worked urgently in Boston’s Financial District to remove the massive amounts of snow that clogged streets and triggered numerous roof collapses.
At the University of Connecticut, where up to 8 inches of new snow was expected, Gavin Paquette was part of a 12-man crew shoveling snow off roofs.
“There was about an 8-foot snow bank up on the roof,” he said of the school’s football training center. “It’s all wet, heavy snow.”
Paquette said all the work that’s come to him with the storms this winter is keeping him in shape. “I’ve lost nine pounds since Wednesday,” he said.
In southern New Hampshire, where forecasters called for up to 18 inches of new snow, employees at a tree service volunteered to clear snow from the roof of Londonderry South Elementary School.
Dave Burl of Accurate Tree Service told WMUR-TV the roof was engineered to hold 44 pounds per square foot, and the weight was already approaching 30 pounds per square foot.
The bad weather going into the weekend spanned several states — winter storm warnings extended west into Michigan and Ohio, where whiteout conditions led to a pileup on the Ohio Turnpike that killed at least two people. Another storm-related crash on the New York Thruway south of Buffalo killed one person.
And leading up to Valentine’s Day, a holiday that usually generates about $500 million in business, some restaurants and retailers said weather-related travel woes have cut into sales by up to 80 percent for some restaurants and retailers.
Since the day promised to show little love, Baker proclaimed “Valentine’s Week” in Massachusetts and encouraged people to celebrate the holiday by buying gifts and dining out all this week.
By Sylvia Lee Wingfield. AP writers Ben Thomas in Revere, Philip Marcelo in Boston, Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Connecticut, and Albert Stumm in Philadelphia contributed to this report