City, State Officials Prepare for Major Boston Snowstorm

Governor Deval Patrick sent home state employees and asked that private businesses do the same.

Photo By Steve Annear

Photo By Steve Annear

Massachusetts residents are starting the New Year with the first official snowstorm of 2014, which could dump up to 14 inches of powdery white flakes in some parts of the state.

Governor Deval Patrick updated residents on the weather conditions from the State House on Thursday afternoon and said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is already activated at “Level 2”  to help assist with storm preparations and related incidents, but will transition to “Level 3,” a full activation, later tonight.

Patrick said state workers should head home at 3 p.m., and urged private business owners to allow their employees to leave early as well. “Mother Nature is unpredictable … and the impact can change and change quickly,” he said. “Because of the expectation of large local variations from one community to another, there will be very specific instructions to local officials. We ask residents of those [communities] … to please pay attention, and respond quickly [to requests from those officials].”

Patrick warned of hypothermia due to the drop in temperatures, and asked that residents be prepared for possible power outages and loss of heat. “We don’t anticipate widespread power outages because of the conditions of the storm, but as I said, conditions may change,” he said.

Last year, Patrick issued a driving ban across the state due to a heavy winter storm, but said he would make the call for this storm based on the circumstances. “I am not ruling it out,” he said.  However, there was no ban in place as of noon on Thursday. The MBTA is also still running on a regular schedule, so commuters can get home safely.

Before the flakes even hit the ground on Wednesday, Mayor Tom Menino cancelled school for Friday, two days ahead of the snowstorm, just in case the weather was as bad as predicted by officials at the National Weather Service.

Menino called the wintry mix a “gift” from Mother Nature because it will be the last major storm he handles as mayor. “What a New Year’s gift, to receive one last snowstorm as Mayor,” Menino said. “With more than a foot of snow expected in parts of the city, we are taking the necessary precautions to make sure the city is cleaned up as quickly as possible.”

The NWS declared a Winter Storm Warning on Thursday, which will remain in place until Friday morning, due to the expectation of heavy snow and winds. A “blizzard warning” was issued for Cape Cod and parts of Eastern Plymouth County.

The heaviest snowfall is expected to hit on Thursday evening, and continue throughout the night with blizzard-like conditions expected Friday morning. Snow is expected to fall between 1 and 2 inches per hour.

Officials from the NWS said Thursday that the storm will bring “considerable blowing and drifting snow with near blizzard conditions possible at times.”

Menino asked that people stay off of the roads during the duration of the storm, so that crews can clean up accordingly. More than 500 pieces of machinery—ranging from vehicles to snow blowers—were deployed as part of the snow removal efforts.

A parking ban went into effect in Boston at noon on Thursday, after Menino declared a snow emergency in the city. Other surrounding cities and towns, including Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline, followed suit, and also asked residents to clear their vehicles off of the roadways or risk getting ticketed or towed.

Driving wasn’t the only form of travel that was impacted by the snowstorm.

Early Thursday afternoon, MassPort, the agency that runs Logan Airport, announced that planes would not be leaving Boston due to the blizzard conditions and low visibility.

“As winter weather approaches, airlines at Logan are expected to reduce service and cancel flights today. We expect the last departure to be at approximately 8:30 pm. Logan Airport will remain open throughout the duration of the storm and be clearing the runways and taxiways in anticipation of service resuming late Friday morning,” MassPort officials said on their Facebook page.