Blizzard of ‘15

At 6:30 am on Monday, it’s 8 degrees and cloudy in Lowell.  By this time yesterday, the National Weather Service had already issued a blizzard watch for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island (since upgraded to a blizzard warning).

Just moments ago, Matt Noyes on New England Cable News just said that the snow will begin late this afternoon and will intensify later in the evening.  Snow will continue throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday.  Travel tomorrow will be “nearly impossible.”  By the time the storm is over, parts of southern New England will have received 2 to 3 feet of snow.

Throughout the storm – electricity permitting – I’ll use this post to collect observations so please use the comment function to provide updates over the next couple of days.

From Marie at 1:40pm on Monday: with a cold temp of 23 degrees small snowflakes are now softly falling in North Tewksbury. A phone call came noting that schools are closed tonight and a “No-School” officially was declared for tomorrow. All in keeping with Governor Baker’s declaration at noon today for a State of Emergency across the Commonwealth as of 12 midnight tonight. BTW – he was wearing a suit and tie and not a vest in the bunker!

From Paul: UMass Lowell not only closed early for the storm, 3.30 pm, but announced at the same time that the school will be closed until Thursday morning, which is an extraordinary announcement. This response to the predicted storm is what separates wheat from chaff in the world of blizzards. The authorities are not fooling with Mother Nature this time around. I had previously planned to be off this afternoon because today is my birthday, so I was on Rte 495 South around 2 pm dropping off Rosemary’s aunt in Westford when the first snow began to blow around. I turned off the Lowell Connector to stop at Target for a few last-minute household items, and the store was not crowded. There was plenty of milk and bread and eggs on the shelves, along with just about anything else you might need in a hurry. On an impulse I bought a three-quart sauce pan (stainless steel), thinking I might cook something unusual while buttoned up inside for the next two days. On your birthday you are allowed to do some unexpected things. By the time I got out of the store the snow was ticking through the air heavily, reminding me of my mother-in-law Mary Noon’s old saying, “Little Snow, Big Snow,” meaning just what is says, the smaller the snowflakes the more likely the storm will be heavy-duty. Back home, I got the cars lined up in the back driveway to allow our trusty plow-man to make the most of his visits. Elpidio Espinola of Tewksbury—I recommend him highly if you need plowing or home improvements at a later date.

From Dick at 6pm on Monday: 20 degrees with light snow which began at 3pm.  Harvey Leonard on Channel 5 just said this will be all snow and at times tonight it will fall at rates of 3 to 4 inches per hours with wind gusts up to 60 mph.  At noon today, the city of Lowell declared a snow emergency parking ban that went into effect at 6 pm tonight and the LRTA announced it would be closed all day tomorrow.  Lowell schools have been cancelled for tomorrow and state courts, including the registry of deeds, will be closed all day tomorrow.  The city council meeting has also been cancelled.  Earlier today, Governor Baker announced a statewide travel ban beginning at midnight tonight.

 From Marie at 6:55 pm on Monday ~ As an inch or so of snow covers our North Tewksbury driveway –  all local channel anchors and meteorologists kept us up to date in the news hours including an update from the Governor… Yes, he assured us – most residents of the Commonwealth will be handling 2-3 feet of snow and seriously dangerous winds. The Merrimack Valley  definitely looks to be – as Channel 7 weather guy Pete Bouchard describes it – a “sweet spot” for at least 2 feet and blizzard conditions. Once home – unless you are a first-responder or healthcare provider – you should hunker-down according all the experts. Most if not all Greater Lowell area town meetings, schools and other activities are cancelled for this evening, all day tomorrow and for some Wednesday as well. The courts will also be closed. The local news did cover the Patriots arrival in Arizona while the national news followed this storm called “Juno” up the coast with a focus on New York City and New England. As we look to the overnight, the worst  aspects of the storm ramp-up…. gusty winds, heavy steady snow accumulating inches per hour and the possibility of power outages – although more likely on the coast and on the Cape. Daylight should reveal a Winter Wonderland!

From Dick at 9:30 pm on Monday: Temp down to 17 degrees, intensity of snow increasing but still not enough accumulation to go out and shovel.  Anxious to see what the morning brings.

TUESDAY – January 27, 2015

UPDATED: Paul posted this earlier but due to a technical glitch it didn’t show up until 10:30 am

It’s 3.37 a.m. Up early or up late in The Flats, as some people call this general area. Could also be the South End, the backside of Uptown, the edge of Back Central (I prefer to call it the Garden District), old St Peter Parish, the South Common Historic District, and a few other names, maybe Sal’s Reach someday when we see the hulking Hood medicine factory restored and re-occupied. The dump truck-plows rumble down Highland Street in pairs. I can see twirling amber lights on Thorndike from heavy equipment that’s beating back the storm as much as possible. I don’t know if this is the peak of the blizzard but conditions are near white-out on Highland. Snow in a billion bits is whipping east to west, from Gorham Street and across the Common to the train station. The street lights are just bright enough to keep the scene visible. It’s difficult to tell how much snow has fallen. The National Weather Service map online shows about eight inches for the Lowell area, but because of the strong steady wind the amounts varies on our property. The driveway is clear to the black-top in the middle, but some of the drifts in the yard look about two feet high. The street is fairly clear due to the constant plowing. We are fortunate here to be in a high-traffic zone with a school, the court, Gallagher transportation terminal, and two streets that funnel vehicles to the Lowell Connector. I’m sure the situation is tough on some of the narrow side streets in dense neighborhoods all over the city.

A “weather event” like this one puts in perspective a lot of things that all of us take for granted day to day—clean running water, a heating system, power for lights and appliances and this laptop computer, a functioning bathroom, and four walls anchored in a foundation and topped with a roof that’s holding. Check, check, check, check, check.  We hardly notice until there is a problem. The other thing about these extreme weather events is that they put everyone in the same boat for a while. When I was growing up, the three TV networks (plus Channel 2/PBS) provided a linking experience for most of the people I knew. These days the social fabric is stretched thinly. We are drawn and pulled in almost countless ways because of technology, dispersed employment, the movement of peoples, the information overload, etc. The social fabric shrinks back and thickens when we find ourselves in an “emergency,” such as encountered in extreme weather. The weather covers us all. It’s the ultimate broadcast network. It is sending, and we are receiving. I remember the Halloween nor’easter of 2011, when the power was out for days, and trying to get local news from WCAP with a battery-run radio. What was happening out there? It was wild, and people were disconnected. But everyone was experiencing the same thing.

Here comes my own plow-guy, Elpidio. His yellow truck light is shining in my kitchen window. 4.13 a.m. He’s been out since 11 p.m. straight, he just told me. I gave him an envelope with payment for the season so far. He’s such a reliable guy, and he never sweats the payment. He knows we’ll settle up when the snow is cleared. Another one of those things that translates into a sense of community. It snows. He shows up. I don’t have to call him and make an appointment. I’m on the list. Amazing, really. All informal. Based on trust. Something to feel good about.

5 am on Tuesday – 12 inches of snow so far

From Dick at 5:45 am on Tuesday: Temp 13 degrees, strong gusty wind.  Still snowing heavily with fine, light flakes.  I measured 12 inches in my driveway at 5:15 am.

From Marie at 6:26 am on Tuesday: Our area of Rte. 495 is in the red zone right now – heavy fine flakes falling, gusty howling winds, blowing, drifting snow and a measurement of 18 inches outside my back door in North Tewksbury. The storm continues as a plow lumbers by on Fiske Street. 

 From Marie at 6:52 am on Monday: The gusty winds are ferocious causing near white-out conditions as the snow fall is more intense and heavy. The brunt of this phase of the storm is right on top of us here in North Tewksbury along Rte. 495.

From Marie at 8 am: At just before 8am in North Tewksbury… gusty winds, blowing, drifting heavy snow … at over 20 measurable inches at driveway door and nearly off the yard stick at backyard door to garage… and the Governor in his recent update thinks we’ll get less snow than predicted… not up here in my backyard Governor… our part of the Merrimack Valley is getting slammed. Time for tea and some breakfast!

Marie at 2:00pm… a frigid 16 degrees as the snow continues to fall in a sideways manner from the northeast…  whirling, swirling and drifting but lighter in North Tewksbury. Opening the garage door revealed a nearly 34″ drift of snow and a high drift against the back door area…. the driveway is socked-in as we await plowing and shoveling… hours more before the snow stops here in the Merrimack Valley… in Western Mass the snow has let up and the Governor has lifted the driving ban for some local roads… the swarth of geography from Worcester up through Lawrence to Newburyport continues to feel a heavy brunt of this storm – which may not be historic elsewhere – but could top many past storms totals in Worcester – could seen 3rd highest snow totals – and in the Merrimack Valley as blizzard warning are in effect until 8pm this evening. . Mounds of snow are growing in the city(ies). Photos of folks shoveling a runway for pets are all over FB and Twitter as officials warn us to clean heating exhaust pipes from homes to the outdoors and to clear a pathway to our fire hydrants. It’s very quiet along Fiske Street with an occasional town plow and sander sweeping up the street… only a few private plows seen… Channel 7  News with former Lowell newsman Steve Cooper and  Dan Hausle keeping us abreast of our neighbors in Andover… the large parking lot at The Chateau restaurant located along side Rte. 93 and River Road in Andover has long been a weather reporting spot not just for  local TV reporters but nationally for The Weather Channel… Amid this weather crisis Wall Street noted the DOW tanking 350 points this morning but it has rallied and is down only 250 points… oil prices while up a $1 seems to be the cause along with retail numbers…. Closing down the roads in states along the Northeast corridor – NY, CT, MA – doesn’t help – remember the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Market. Check out our house snow drift/window views… the first from this “Blizzard of ’15” ongoing storm and the second from the “Blizzard of ’78.”

 Snow drifts cover the entry to our back door and “paint” the house clapboards as seen from our open garage door.

The same window with the view from the Blizzard of 1978.

Tuesday at 4:30 pm from Dick:


Heavy equipment clearing Lowell streets

The National Weather Service is reporting that Lowell had 28 inches of snow on the ground as of 1 pm.  Since it hasn’t stopped snowing since then, I expect we got at least enough to push us past the 30 inch threshold.  Earlier today the Lowell Police Tweeted that City Hall and all municipal buildings (as well as the schools) will remain closed tomorrow (Wednesday).  No word on the courts and the registry of deeds yet; the Trial Court website says a decision will be made tonight.  The MBTA and Commuter Rail haven’t made a decision yet about when service will resume.

I made my second pass of the driveway with the snow blower at 2 pm.  About 6 inches more had fallen since my first effort this morning which was more challenging due to the 20 inches that had fallen by then.  I’ll have to go out again after dinner, hopefully for the last time for this storm.  Up until a few years ago, I would also have to clear off portions of my roof due to ice dams.  That was crushing work, especially after doing the driveway and the dog’s area in the backyard.  Three years ago I smartened up and installed some electric heating cables along the edge of the roof in a couple of key spots.  They do a great job of melting channels through the edge of the roof ice backups that otherwise cause melting snow to leak into your house.

Just as I was dragging the snow blower into the garage, two pre-teens from a nearby street walked into my driveway with a plastic grocery bag.  Girl Scout cookies?  No, they offered to sell me a newspaper, a self-produced one, for 25 cents.  Because of the travel ban, the usual paper copies from the mainstream media didn’t arrive today, so I was happy to purchase this one and added a decent tip for their efforts and initiative.  The lead story in The News Splash is that Tom Brady and the Patriots have been falsely accused of wrongdoing (“Maybe the other team should just be quiet.”).  Also, Bella and the Bulldogs is going to be a great new TV show.  There were two pages of comics, too.

Wednesday (Jan 28) at 8:30 am by Dick:

The National Weather Service reports that Lowell received 31 inches of snow in this storm, a figure I won’t dispute.  It began Monday night and ended on Tuesday night so we had almost 24 hours of continuous snowfall with the temperature never rising above 16 degrees.  Strong, gusty wind caused the light, fluffy snow to drift into artistically sloped piles.

I was disappointed to awake to a slate gray sky this morning.  Brilliant sunshine bouncing off the new fallen snow gives you a day of visual enjoyment before the hassles of narrow streets, high snowbanks, unshoveled sidewalks, and disappeared parking spaces bring you back to the drudging reality of life in the aftermath of a big snow storm.

City Hall, the courthouses, the registry of deeds, and all schools in the vicinity are closed today.  The MBTA and commuter rail are back in operation but my MBTA alerts this morning made me think otherwise:

  •  Lowell Line Train 352 (6:55 am from Anderson/ Woburn) cancelled today due to snow
  • Lowell Line Train 302 (5:35 am from Lowell) cancelled due to mechanical problem
  • Lowell Line Train 301 (5:45 am from North Station) cancelled today due to snow
  • Lowell Line Train 351 (6:25 am from North Station) cancelled today due to snow
  • Lowell Line Train 308 (7:18 am from Lowell) cancelled due to snow
  • Lowell Line Train 310 (7:46 am from Lowell) delayed today 15 to 25 minutes due to snow
  • Lowell Line Trains 355 (7:55 am from North Station) and 356 (8:30 am from Anderson/ Woburn) cancelled due to snow

Given the number of train cancellations, it looks like some people who were supposed to be at work in Boston today will have an additional day off.

4 Responses to Blizzard of ‘15

  1. Paul Sweeney says:

    Drove home from Portsmouth NH to Lowell beginning at 2:45. Rte 95 from the Greenland Exit to the Seabrook-Rte 107 Exit the road was beginning to become snow covered in a heavy squall. After the Mass line the road was mostly clear with snow flurry type snow until the Lawrence double-decker bridge where again it was becoming snow covered. The rest of the way to Rte 38 Exit there was flurry type snow but road was in the state of just beginning to become snow covered. After Rte 38 the road was bare and there was only an occasional snow flake to Exit 4 off the Connector. Glad I left just in time!

  2. Wayne Jenness says:

    Left work in Woburn around 4:15. Took me over an hour to get to Target on Plain St… Bread and milk supplies had dwindled by that point… I got the last loaf of white bread on the shelves, the milk section was very week picked over… Folks were peaceful and lines were not long however. Now sitting at Beer Works enjoying my last meal of freedom before locking myself in the house until Wednesday. Stay safe out there, everyone.

  3. Eileen Boyd says:

    Enjoyed the commentary, pictures, and stories. Won’t tell you what our weather was like here in Texas. – eileen