Storm focuses wrath on New England
Boston — Its winds howling at more than 70 mph, the Blizzard of 2015 slammed Boston and surrounding parts of New England on Tuesday with none of the mercy it unexpectedly showed New York City, piling up more than 2 feet of snow.
The blizzard's force and relentlessness stunned even winter-hardened New Englanders.
"It's a wicked storm," Jeff Russell said as he fought a mounting snowdrift threatening to cover a window at his home in Scarborough, Maine.
The storm punched out a 40-to-50-foot section of a seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts, badly damaging a vacant home. In Newport, Rhode Island, it toppled a 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War sailing vessel in dry dock, breaking its mast and puncturing its hull.
But in the wild world of winter weather, location is everything, which New York learned Tuesday.
Small last-minute changes in the air morphed what was supposed to be crippling feet of snow into a handful of inches in New York, leading one forecaster to apologize, the National Weather Service boss to get defensive and some wondering where the much-hyped snow went.
Meteorologists say the nor'easter strayed 75-100 miles east of its predicted track, which meant the western edge — New York and New Jersey — got 10 inches less than forecast.
The snow in New England began Monday evening and continued most of Tuesday. A blizzard warning for Boston ended Tuesday evening as the snow tapered off, but one remained in effect for the south coast, Cape Cod and nearby islands.
New England area also faced bitter cold: The low in Boston on Wednesday is expected to be 10 degrees, with wind chill minus 5, and forecasters said it will not get above freezing for the next week or so.
New York's Long Island also got clobbered by snow. But Philadelphia a mere inch or so. New Jersey got up to 10 inches.
The Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor of more than 35 million people had braced for a paralyzing blast Monday evening and into Tuesday after forecasters warned of a storm of potentially historic proportions.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, a defensive National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini, who wrote textbooks on winter storms, wouldn't say his agency's forecast was off. Instead, he blamed the way meteorologists communicated and said the weather service needs to do a better job addressing uncertainty.
Private meteorologist Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics slammed the public agency for ratcheting up forecast storm amounts before the system arrived, instead of telling people how uncertain it was.
"The public should be upset that the forecast was blown for NYC and ask for answers," he said in an email.
Uccellini said the agency would review those procedures and consult with social scientists to improve messaging.
'This is nothing'
By Tuesday morning in the New York City area, buses and subways were starting to run again, and driving bans there and in New Jersey had been lifted.
"This is nothing," said Susanne Payot, a New York cabaret singer whose rehearsal Tuesday was canceled. "I don't understand why the whole city shut down because of this."
Others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.
"I think it's like the situation with Ebola: If you over-cover, people are ready and prepared, rather than not giving it the attention it needs," said Brandon Bhajan, a New York security guard.
Around New England, snowplows struggled to keep up, and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals. Snow blanketed Boston Common, where the Redcoats drilled during the Revolution, and drifts piled up against Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty stoked the fires of rebellion.
Nearly 21 inches of snow coated Boston's Logan Airport by evening, while nearby Framingham had 21/2 feet and Worcester 26 inches. Lunenburg reported 33 inches.
Providence, Rhode Island, had well over a foot of snow. Sixteen inches had piled up in Portland, Maine, and 23 inches in Waterford, Connecticut. Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island, got about 2 feet.
At least 30,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Boston-Cape Cod area, including the entire island of Nantucket.
As the storm pushed into the Northeast on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters' dire predictions. More than 7,700 flights were canceled, and schools, businesses, government offices and transit systems shut down.
In the Detroit area, nearly 200 departing flights and 220 arrivals into Detroit Metro Airport were canceled Tuesday from cities such as Boston, Hartford, Providence, New York, Newark and Philadelphia.
Morgan Durrant, a spokesman for Delta Air Lines, said that nearly 1,000 flights have been canceled nationwide due to the winter storm. But Delta, the largest hub at Metro Airport, is going to extend its waiver for canceled or delayed flights through Wednesday, he said.
A National Weather Service forecaster who was called a hero of 2012's Superstorm Sandy tweeted an apology for the errant forecast.
"You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry," wrote Gary Szatkowski, a National Weather Service forecaster in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
Uccellini downplayed Szatkowski's apology.
The storm spun up in the ocean, where there are few monitors to help meteorologists and computer models pinpoint the track, forecasters said. In such a storm, an error of 50 miles "can be a big difference," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.
AP writer Seth Borenstein
and Detroit News Staff Writer
Leonard Fleming contributed.
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