Why I hate winter '06
December 10, 2005
'IT WAS JUST BLINDING'
Snowstorm with thunder surprises area
Click on the thumbnail shots
below for larger images.
With almost two weeks remaining in
New England's "autumn," on Friday, Dec. 9th, we had our first
nor'easter of Winter '06, and it was fierce and bizarre.
Near-hurricane force winds blew the 3"-4" an hour snowfall
horizontally. The flash that lit my office, which I thought was
an explosion, was the first bolt of "Thundersnow"! (Dec. 10,
I wouldn't call
this accumulation especially heavy in the nature of things no doubt to
come -- about a foot in Marblehead -- some places caught 18 inches or
more. The Autumn
Blizzard of '03 certainly dumped more on us! Though I'd have
to say that with a start like this, Winter '06
does not bode well.
My "new" 1999 Chevy Blazer was
parked to protect the woodpile from the plow, and to just get it out of
the way in front of my house for the plowing. First storms of
the season are critical in teaching the plow-operator where to plow --
and where not to!
Though I'd started the snowblower a
few weeks ago to be prepared for this eventuality, of course it
wouldn't start this morning. After wasting a half hour trying,
out came the trusty old shovel, which somehow always starts.
Make those paths wide with the first
snowfall, so you've got room for what's coming in the months ahead;
and toss the snow as far as you can, so you're not heaving it up atop
a mountain come February! I need this path to cart in firewood
for the stove in the kitchen.
The temperamental snowblower sat
outside the lean-to out back, as far as I managed to drag it, brazenly
satisfied to observe my labors with trusty old shovel. But I
managed to make it run later in the afternoon, hah!
"Chip Ahoy" (foreground) and Wally
Riddle's "Carpe Diem" weathered the storm well beneath their tarps and
PVC "skeleton" frames.
The Boston Globe
Saturday, December 10, 2005
'IT WAS JUST BLINDING'
Snowstorm with thunder surprises area
By Donovan Slack and Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff
A wild northeaster surprised Southern
New England yesterday with near-blizzard conditions and a bizarre
thunderstorm, closing Logan International Airport, gridlocking thousands
of homeward-bound commuters, and dumping more than a foot of snow in
Lightning struck an airplane as it landed at Logan International
Airport, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 495 near Wrentham,
and school buses filled with children were in accidents in Boston and
Braintree. Near hurricane winds whipped through coastal communities and
left about 80,000 homes without power in Southeastern Massachusetts.
No injuries were reported, but the storm caught some school
superintendents and many commuters and road crews off guard. The storm
began mildly in the morning, but in early afternoon snowballed into
blustery, whiteout conditions.
Around 3 p.m., Logan International Airport shut down for about two hours
because of poor visibility, canceling hundreds of flights. Ferry service
was called off when winds in Boston Harbor reached 50 miles per hour.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority truncated service on the
E branch of the Green Line because of poor weather conditions and
Accidents and abandoned cars, as well as downed trees, highway signs,
and utility poles, crippled highways and thoroughfares from Cape Cod to
Gloucester, as commuters tried to make their way home last night.
Portions of routes 128, 3, and 9 were shut down.
"I don't think we've ever seen driving conditions this bad," said Lydia
Iantosca, 34, of Dedham, who pulled off Route 9 and holed up at the
Chestnut Hill Mall to wait out the storm. "It was just blinding."
But State Police reported no serious accidents last night as of about
The energetic, fast-moving storm dropped more than a foot of snow in
some places, with Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire
bearing the brunt of the snowfall, meteorologists said. Snow in those
areas fell at a rate of 5 inches per hour at some points. Littleton,
Mass., recorded more than 15 inches of snowfall, while Bennington, N.H.,
got nearly 1 1/2 feet. Cambridge reported 8 inches and Winthrop had
recorded 5 inches as of late yesterday afternoon.
Boston, Hartford, Providence, and Worcester recorded record amounts of
snow for the date. Logan measured 8.6 inches of snow; Boston Common,
7.5; and Worcester, 12.8 inches.
Forecasters had been predicting 5 to 10 inches of snowfall across the
region, but said they did not foresee the sharp drop in air pressure
that created what meteorologists call "thundersnow." A low-pressure
system sweeping northward from the mid-Atlantic coast yesterday morning
got a boost of low pressure from a system moving east over New York
State. Snowflakes provided conductivity, and the result was booming
thunder, flashes of lightning, and more snow. Forecasters said the
severity of the storm was greater than anticipated.
"We got slammed today," said Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist
with the National Weather Service in Taunton. "It was crazy."
Winds reached about 60 miles per hour in Wakefield and in Tiverton,
R.I., but coastal towns in Massachusetts recorded the most forceful
gusts. Winds reached 62 miles per hour in Nantucket, 73 miles per hour
in Plymouth, and 75 miles per hour in Chatham.
Hurricane wind speeds start at 75 miles per hour. A storm reaches
blizzard status when frequent wind gusts reach 35 miles per hour and
visibility shrinks to less than a quarter-mile for three hours or more.
The fiercest period of yesterday's onslaught lasted only two hours,
according to Walt Drag, another National Weather Service meteorologist.
Gusts felled a large power-transmission line, and tens of thousands of
homes were without power last night in Plymouth and New Bedford, as well
as on Martha's Vineyard and the Cape, an NStar spokeswoman said.
The power company diverted repair crews from north and west of Boston to
the area, and planned to have them working through last night until
electricity was restored. "The worst of the storm blew in all at once,"
the spokeswoman, Caroline Allen, said. "It knocked down trees and took
power lines with it."
In perhaps the most dramatic storm-related incident, lightning hit
Comair Flight 5437, a Canada Air regional flight traveling from
Baltimore to Boston, just before it touched down at Logan Airport
shortly after 2 p.m., according to Kate Moser, a Comair spokeswoman.
Federal Aviation Administration officials said the strike blew off the
tip of the airplane's left wing, but Moser said the plane landed safely
with three crew members and 35 passengers aboard, most bound for Boston.
Janie Brooks, one of the passengers, said it was a "lovely flight"
before the lightning struck. "There was a large ball of orange
something, very loud and very bright and very bumpy," Brooks told
CBS4-TV (Channel 4). "We were a little scared."
A 52-year-old man was struck from behind by a plow in Peabody while he
was walking east on Lowell Street at about 8:50 p.m., according to
Peabody police. The man was transported to Massachusetts General
Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition last night, Peabody
police Lieutenant John McCorry said. The driver of the plow was not
cited last night.
School superintendents in parts of Eastern Massachusetts were in a
quandary by midday yesterday. The storm had started with fluffy snow in
the morning, prompting communities such as Boston, Braintree, Wayland,
and Waltham to open school for the day. But when the storm suddenly
picked up and superintendents decided to release students early, buses
confronted slippery roads and rapidly mounting snow.
In Brookline, Superintendent William Lupini said he thought weather
conditions were OK in the morning when he decided to open schools. But
he groaned in the afternoon when the sky turned dark, lightning flashed,
and snow mounted. School officials rushed to get students out safely. At
the town's Lawrence School, plows were called because teachers could not
get their cars out of the parking lot. "It came so quickly," Lupini
said. "I wish I had the information I have now. If I did, maybe I'd have
done something different. But that's not possible."
A Boston school bus ferrying high school students home from the South
Boston Education Complex collided with another vehicle at the corner of
G and 8th streets, according to Jonathan Palumbo, spokesman for Boston
public schools. Four students were treated at area hospitals and
released. The cause of the accident was unclear. He did not have more
details, such as how many students were on the bus.
Earlier in the day, a Braintree school bus carrying 63 kindergartners
through fifth-graders skidded off Cedar Cliff Road around 8:30 a.m. The
bus wound up on a resident's front lawn. No one was injured. Another bus
was called to take the children to school.
In downtown Boston yesterday afternoon, bitter winds whipped down
Tremont Street, as tourists towing suitcases fought to keep their
balance and as grimacing mothers hustled their children along the snowy
sidewalks. Jessica Walker, 29, of Beverly and her mother, Ginger
Ferreira of Cambridge, refused to cancel their plans for their yearly
Christmas shopping outing. "This is better than 30 below," Ferreira
In North Andover, some saw the storm as a ripe business opportunity.
Josh Houde, 15, and his cousin, Billy Woods, 16, launched a
snow-shoveling business, papering their neighborhood with fliers early
in the day with hopes for tons -- well, hundreds of pounds, anyway -- of
business by nightfall.
"We've done it for years here and there, but this year we decided to
print up fliers so we can get a regular group of customers," Houde said.
The pair collared a younger brother and two cousins to help and planned
to charge $20 per driveway and $5 to $10 per sidewalk. "We're hoping
that when the snow stops, we'll make enough money to buy Christmas
Lisa Wangsness, Adrienne Samuels, Megan Tench,
and Mac Daniel of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Caroline
Louise Cole, Dorian Block, and Chase Davis contributed to this report.
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