EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 11, 2013

.... Sleet, rain today after 30 inches of snow

By Keith Eddings
keddings@eagletribune.com

---- — A sloggy mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain will put an icy coat on snow-packed roads during the late-morning commute, clog street drains and weigh down rooftops still bearing the burden of the weekend blizzard, forecasters warned yesterday.

Public schools throughout the region – including in Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill, North Andover and Andover – will remain closed today, adding to the snow day students and staff got on Friday. Several private schools, including Central Catholic in Lawrence, also stayed shut.

“All of our buildings are open, in good shape and ready to go,” Haverhill schools Superintendent James Scully said yesterday, noting that school and city laborers worked through the weekend to clear roads, sidewalks and parking lots. “The problem is the forecast.”

The MBTA, which shut its subway, commuter rail and bus lines as the blizzard arrived Friday evening, is expected to restore full service this morning after a shutdown that began as the first flakes fell Friday afternoon. But MBTA officials warned riders to be patient as some problems may persist. U.S. Mail deliveries also are scheduled to resume today. They were canceled Saturday.

The Blizzard of 2013 was the winter storm of the still-young century, burying the Merrimack Valley in as much as 30 inches of snow and piling up drifts more than twice that high. But unless you lost power or live by the beach – including Plum Island and Salisbury, where several homes were slammed by the surging sea - the storm was not much more than an inconvenience locally, although it was no sleigh ride.

“I think we did fairly well, but we got 80,000 people who have an opinion,” said John Isensee, Lawrence’s acting public works commissioner, as he headed back to work at 10:30 last night to continue overseeing the clean up.”Certainly we did better than in 1978.”

No fatalities were reported in the region, although more than a dozen were killed in Canada and the northeast, including a 14-year-old Boston boy who died of carbon monoxide when the tail pipe of the car he was resting in was clogged by snow.

Only a handful of outages were reported locally, while the lights went out in about 400,000 homes and businesses statewide, the most in New England. About half those who lost power got it back by yesterday afternoon.

Police in the region reported no major accidents, crediting the timing of the weekend storm and Gov. Deval Patrick’s directive ordering private vehicles off the road for 24 hours beginning Friday at 4 p.m.

Aided by a warming sun, homeowners yesterday were shoveling the last of what was then still a light dry fluff to the edges of their driveways while public works crews hauled truckloads of it to parking lots and other open spaces.

“The sun’s out – what more do you want? Little League baseball?” Andover police Lt. Harry Collins said yesterday. “We had one car reported off the road on Route 125 two nights ago. By the time we got there, it was gone.”

“The Merrimack Valley, relatively speaking, is in very good shape,” said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “The southeast part of the state is where all the action really is. That’s where almost all of the 200,000 power outages are, and most of the issues with coastal flooding. The plowing continues to go well. The major roads are in excellent shape.”

The blizzard did the most damage along the shore, sending storm surges over dunes and seawalls and into living rooms in Plum Island and Salisbury on the North Shore and from Quincy to the Cape on the South Shore.

The only road to Plum Island was flooded during Saturday’s high tides, shutting access to the barrier beach.The small parking lot at Plum Island Center that provides the island’s main access to the beach remained closed yesterday after the ocean washed through the dune there Saturday morning. A 300-yard section of beach south of the small downtown took the worst of the ocean’s fury: waves washed through five homes on a single street, leaving them uninhabitable.

Across the Merrimack River in Salisbury Beach, where waves washed over the dunes and flooded several homes and a motel on Saturday, most of the 46 residents who were evacuated were allowed back in their homes by later that night.

The blizzard’s Friday afternoon arrival helped contain its economic damage because most businesses lost only a half day of employee time. Retailers and restaurants lost a little more.

John Sapienza, owner of Pizza King on Salem Street in Lawrence, closed Saturday because he couldn’t get his parking lot plowed. He sells about 100 pizzas on a normal Saturday.

“I checked my phone messages, I had at least 30 missed calls,” he said last night as an employee boxed a pepperoni pizza for take-out. “I had eight messages, including one vulgar message. You think it’s easy being a pizza king?”

For Snow-Tech Inc., a Chicago plowing company that expanded to New England last year, business over the weekend was as good as it gets. The company had five employees in five vehicles clearing the acre of a parking lot at California Paints on Dascomb Road in Andover, where its work started by spreading a layer of salt Friday morning and continued intermittently through yesterday, when it reworked the piles it left around the edges of the parking lot, which had been reshaped by heavy winds.

“We’re a family business – I’m third generation,” said Matt Moulaklis, Snow-Tech’s 25-year-old vice president. “We’ve been through this for over 30 years. We’ve seen multiple blizzards. Each one has its own challenges. We took into account the drifting conditions, the winds. We didn’t know they’d be as bad as they were.”

After today’s rain, the rest of the week should be sunny and clear with temperatures at or above 40 degrees.

Staff writers Dave Rogers and Lynne Hendricks contributed to this story.