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Northeast residents dig themselves out after weekend blizzard

February 11, 2013|By Alana Semuels and Michael Muskal

BOSTON -- Amid a mix of rain, sleet and snow, plows and electricity-repair crews across the Northeast continued their efforts to clean up the remains of the blizzard of 2013 with transportation issues remaining a key concern.

The morning commute in many areas remained slow on Monday as key roads continued to be closed. Mass transit was returning to service but slowly. The Long lsland Expressway, a key commuter roadway in suburban New York, reopened for business, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday morning, days after hundreds of vehicles were caught by the blizzard, trapping drivers and passengers overnight Friday and, in some cases, well into Saturday.

The storm dropped more than two feet of snow across the region and in some parts, notably central Connecticut and Rhode Island, more than three feet. Many smaller roads in Connecticut remained impassable, slowing recovery efforts, while the icy rain spread a patina of pain on other thoroughfares. Police closed parts of Interstate 91 from Windsor, Conn., to the Massachusetts state line on Monday.

In the Boston area, freezing rain and hail made commutes sluggish and dangerous as people trying to get back to work found themselves stuck in traffic for two or three times the usual period of time. Essential routes such as Storrow Drive and the Mass Pike in Boston were not moving, and giant excavators and bulldozers slowed traffic at many intersections, still clearing snow. Pedestrians forced onto streets by snow piles six feet high in some places contended for space with the cars spitting up mushy, brown slush.

School was still canceled in many Massachusetts towns, including Boston. Schools in Providence, R.I.,  and the eastern end of Long Island were also closed.

At the height of the blizzard, more than 5,300 flights were canceled and airports from New York to Boston were closed. All of the airports reopened on Saturday, but operations were still slow to return to normal.

At Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday, flights were delayed more than half an hour --  when they got off at all. Passengers on at least one flight boarded it, were told to leave and then told to re-board. Problems eventually were working their way to other flights around the nation, though nothing serious was reported at most airports, according to the website FlightAware.

But Logan quickly became a gathering place for horror stories for people trying to return to -- or escape from -- Boston.

For Deborah and Richard Meaney, of Effingham, N.H., and their daughter Emily, 7, Monday became the third day of a nightmarish journey to get to Florida.

The family drove from their home, where more than three feet of snow covered the ground, to Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday, to wait for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrickto lift the driving ban he had placed for 24 hours. On the way down, they passed abandoned cars, spun out on the highways, which Richard Meaney felt an obligation to check for passengers, since he is a firefighter. Once the driving ban was lifted, they headed to a friend’s house to wait for their 10 p.m. flight to Florida. JetBlue, their carrier, said it hoped to get a flight off, but ended up canceling it. There were no available flights on Sunday.

When the Meaneys were waiting Sunday in a Walgreens parking lot, a snowplow slammed into their car, spinning their car around and totaling it.

On Monday, they were trying again to get on a flight, knowing their vacation was getting shorter and shorter by the day. The family was also going to Florida to look for a house to buy. They’re done with New Hampshire.

“I’m going to buy anything that’s for sale,” Deborah Meaney joked.

Other travelers were arriving back in Boston from sunny locales, dreading the snow that they’d soon have to face.

George Obazuaye was supposed to get home to Boston on Saturday, but the weather kept him in Ontario, Calif., until Monday morning. He got off the airplane and was heading toward his car, which he had parked in a lot, anticipating that it would be covered in snow.

He wasn’t looking forward to it, he said, but “I have no choice.”

The storm took a toll on electricity as gusts reaching hurricane force brought down power lines across the region. More than 660,000 customers were without power during the worst of the storm. By Monday, the number of those still without electricity stood at 136,000, most of whom were in Massachusetts, according to the federal Department of Energy.

At least 11 storm-related deaths were reported: five in Connecticut, three in New York, two in Massachusetts and one in Maine.

Snow drifts remained high in cities from Boston to Hartford. In Boston, officials said they would work through the night to bring some relief. Boston recorded 24.9 inches of snow, making it the city’s fifth-largest storm.

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Semuels reported from Boston and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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