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February 8, 2013

Mass bans vehicles at 4 p.m.; offenders face fine up to $500, 1 year in jail

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency for blizzard that could bring near 3 feet of snow.

Patrick signed an executive order banning all vehicles from roadways starting at 4 p.m. today. Ban applies to all roadways, including highways and secondary roads. Any one caught driving after 4 p.m. faces up to one year in jail and $500 fine.

Patrick said the blizzard is “a profoundly different kind of storm than we have dealt with” and the projected snowfall rate of two to three inches per hour will “make safe travel nearly impossible.”

MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz said that a similar executive order banning vehicular travel went into effect after the “blizzard of ‘78” and said he is unaware of any similar ban since then.

The order is “outright ban on all roads” with no set time for when it will be lifted. There are exceptions for public utility and health care workers as well as delivery trucks and news media. Schwartz said that the maximum penalty for people who violate the ban is one year imprisonment.

There are currently 1,000 National Guard troops, and Patrick said nearly 5,000 would be in place over the course of the weekend. The Department of Transportation had 1,600 pieces of equipment on the roads around noon on Friday, and planned to bring that number up to 4,000 as the storm intensifies.

The MBTA will send its last train out at 3:30 p.m., and turnpike tolls will be opened starting at 2 p.m., Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said. A total of 2,000 utility teams are in place, though work repairing downed wires will not begin until the storm is over, according to Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan.

"Prepare for the possibility of being shut in and at home for the next 24 or 48 hours,” Patrick advised. He said drifts could grow to five feet and while saying he understood the desire for some exploring once the storm subsided, he asked people do so safely. “There are hazards under this winter wonderland,” he said.

Patrick advised people with generators to make sure to vent them, said people with wells should fill their bathtubs with water, and the cooling devices on refrigerators should be turned up.

More as it develops.

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