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After Storm, Northeast Expects Frigid, Windy Weekend

JD Allen
A city worker shovels a path from downtown Pittsfield to the police station around the corner. His snowplow is bogged down. It’s snowing at the rate of about an inch an hour in Berkshire County’s largest city. ";s:

A winter snowstorm has engulfed much of the Northeast, and frigid temperatures are expected to follow this weekend. 

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Chris Besse says the extreme cold after the storm could be dangerous.

“We’re getting information for the [National] Weather Service that both cold temperatures and wind chills are going to be even below what they were earlier this week – negative 5 to negative 10 just in the temperatures, and then wind chills from anywhere from 15-35 below zero – so for people that may be without power during that time it could be a really dangerous situation,” Besse says.

By the end of tonight, New York City is expecting 9 inches of snow. Boston expects up to twice that. 

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy says the worst is yet to come with potential power outages and hurricane force winds sweeping through the Northeast. Malloy is urging people to stay indoors.

“Stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. This will allow the Department of Transportation crews to continue to clear highways,” Malloy says. “The best advice for all motorists is to give the plows plenty of space, don’t attempt to pass them, and keep in mind that the road behind the snowplow is a lot clearer than the one in front of the snowplow.”

As of mid-afternoon, more than 1,100 electric customers in Connecticut and 4,000 in New York were reporting power outages. In Massachusetts, MEMA’s Besse said there were more than 3,700 outages – mostly in the state’s eastern end.

“That number is relatively low for a statewide number,” Besse says. “But that being said, for those people without power it’s a big deal to them.”

There are pockets of major coastal flooding around Boston and on Nantucket. Wind speeds at the Cape range from 45 to 75 mph.

Cities across Massachusetts – from Boston to Pittsfield and North Adams –declared snow emergencies to keep vehicles off city streets.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said high winds and frigid temperatures make it more difficult for the thousands of workers trying to clear roads. Only essential personnel – first responders and healthcare workers – should be on the road.

“If the temperature drops, and what you now see on the highways turns to ice, there is very little you can do when the roads turn to ice and if you get too low the chemicals are useless. An iced roadway is the most dangerous situation. So we are going to continue to monitor, depending on what we see we can adjust accordingly,” Cuomo says.

Peter Pan cancelled all of its Northeast bus services. It is scheduled to resume Friday. Metro-North is experiencing delays and has reduced services north of New York City and into Connecticut.

“The airports are for all intents and purposes closed,” Cuomo said this afternoon. “Kennedy Airport, La Guardia Airport, the runways are closed. The terminals are open for people who are stuck at the airport because their planes aren’t taking off. If you were planning on taking off today, I don’t think that’s a likelihood.”

600 state plow trucks and some 250 private contractors are clearing state roads in Connecticut. MassDOT reports more than 3,000 pieces of equipment in use. MEMA’s Besse says that doesn’t include local municipalities and private contractors.

“It’s definitely an all-hands-on-deck scenario,” Besse says.

In Vermont, wind chill values are forecast from 20 below to 40 below. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for southern Vermont, predicting up to 10 inches of snow. Ice accumulations of up to one-quarter of an inch could make driving especially dangerous.

The snow is expected to end by 9 p.m.

Reacting to the winter storm, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation Thursday called for the Department of Health and Human Services to release as much as possible of the remaining 10 percent of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, funds for poor, veteran and senior households.

The Department of Energy predicts consumers across the Northeast will have to pay significantly more to heath their homes this winter. Families who have oil are expected to pay 21 percent more. Natural gas, 10 percent more.

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