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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

In icy conditions, the Northeast starts digging out

A snow plow in New York, Jan. 29, 2022.

By Matt Berg, Melina Delkic, Patrick Cassidy, Catherine McGloin and Chantee Lans

Twenty miles south of Boston, homeowners took to their driveways on Sunday morning with shovels, snowblowers and a little civic pride. Excavating cars that could hardly be seen under mountainous piles of dense snow, Stoughton residents faced the chilly task of digging out from a record-breaking winter storm, but at least they had some bragging rights.

Stoughton saw the most snowfall — 30.9 inches — of any city or town in the Northeast during the storm, according to the National Weather Service.

“We won!” said Stoughton’s fire chief, Mike Carroll, when asked about the town’s snow totals. Stoughton, which has about 29,000 residents, edged out neighboring Sharon, Massachusetts, which recorded 30.4 inches.

For Stoughton, Sharon and other municipalities across the Northeast, Sunday was a recovery day after a fierce storm with high winds pummeled them over the weekend, bringing more than 2 feet of snow in parts of the region, including areas near New York City.

Snowplow crews worked to get roads, airports and neighborhoods back to normal.

But as residents emerged Sunday, they found a new complication in much of the Northeast: fast-dropping temperatures that turned snow to ice and made shoveling for long periods potentially dangerous. Subzero temperatures hit parts of Massachusetts and Maine early Sunday, and wind chills in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area were as low as minus 16 degrees — so severe that they “could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes,” the weather service warned.

Wind chill advisories were issued in western Maine, central New Hampshire and western Connecticut, and Boston had temperatures in the mid-20s. Temperatures were expected to be in the 20s in New York City, but the wind chill made it feel more like the teens, officials said.

And just as one part of the country was bouncing back, an area spanning the Midwest into the Northeast was expecting another winter storm this week. Although it was unclear Sunday precisely what path the storm system would take, meteorologists at the Chicago office of the weather service reported that the storm could bring ice and snow to the Rocky Mountains and move northeast through Missouri, Illinois, the Great Lakes region and a part of the Eastern Seaboard.

The effects of the storm over the weekend were still being felt in travel and transit Sunday. Hundreds of flights were canceled early in the day, mostly in the Boston and New York areas, according to the website FlightAware, which tracks flight cancellations. Still, the number was a far cry from the thousands of cancellations Saturday.

Trains running in and out of New York City largely resumed their regular schedules, although Amtrak trains between Boston and New York remained canceled. On the Long Island Rail Road, which suspended all service on Saturday, trains were experiencing delays of up to 20 minutes on Sunday, with buses replacing trains in certain areas where snow was still being cleared. Flights from Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty International Airports also resumed.

In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu said in a news conference that schools would be open Monday. But with cold temperatures expected to persist, the snow was not going to melt away as many had hoped, she noted. On Saturday, the city recorded 23.6 inches of snow, tying a single-day record that was set in 2003. The overall storm total of 23.8 inches was the sixth-highest in the city’s history, according to Bill Leatham, a meteorologist for the weather service’s office in Norton, Massachusetts.

Jascha Franklin-Hodge, chief of streets for Boston, joined Wu at the news conference and said of the snow removal efforts, “This work is going to continue for days ahead.”

In Maine, the heaviest snow fell along the coast on Saturday — 18 inches in Brunswick, nearly 15 in Old Orchard Beach and 14 in Eastport, at the Canada border — but there were few power outages on Sunday.

Both in Maine and on Cape Cod, surfers on Sunday were taking advantage of the large waves created by the winds of the nor’easter. After emerging from the 40-degree waters off Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Peter von der Heyde said of the swells, “It was freaking awesome.”

In New York City, where the snowfall totals ranged widely — 4 inches on Staten Island, 8.3 inches in Manhattan, 13.1 inches in Queens — life was largely back to normal on Sunday, if icier.

Under sunny skies, New Yorkers jogged through plowed sidewalks and drove over cleared roads as children took their sleds to Central Park. Despite the sun, temperatures stayed frigid, though winds were milder compared with the sharp gusts on Saturday.

New York City seemed to have escaped the worst of the winter storm’s effects. But on Long Island, which was pummeled by up to 2 feet of snow in some areas, at least two residents died while trying to shovel snow on Saturday: In Belmont Circle, Nassau County police officers found a 53-year-old man lying in the snow with a shovel beside him, and a 75-year-old man collapsed in Syosset while clearing a road. Also, a woman in Nassau County was found dead in her car early Saturday; the police were investigating.

In Canton, Massachusetts, police were investigating the death of a man who was found unresponsive outside Saturday morning. Emergency responders brought him to a local hospital, where he later died, according to David Traub, spokesperson for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office.

In Stoughton, the mood was light, and residents seemed determined not to let the storm dictate their entire weekend. One man was seen wading to his mailbox waist-deep in snow to begin clearing a path. At Olivio’s Grill & Pizzeria, business was steady in the morning, as Yves Urio, 30, the manager, wrote down several takeout orders. “Pizza and wings, that’s all we’re selling today,” he said.

Members of Stoughton’s Police and Fire departments reveled in their snowfall victory of sorts. On Saturday, they had taken to social media in jest, playfully debating with other towns about which one would see the biggest snow piles. But before long, Carroll said, “everyone jumped on board” to comment online. On Sunday morning, the Stoughton Police Department posted on Facebook, “Today we wake up as champions!!”

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