Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire declared states of emergency today according to the Boston Herald, as ice storms struck New England leaving behind slick roads, downed tree limbs and power lines. So far the number of Massachusetts homes without power is pegged at 350,000, including 267,000 served by the National Grid and 20,000 customers of Western Mass. Electric Co., but the number has been increasing throughout the morning. In New Hampshire, 230,000 homes lost power, with Jim Van Dogen of the state’s Emergency Management Department telling the Union Leader that the situation there is “a mess.”
The Massachusetts state of emergency reflects differing conditions in different areas of the state. In western Massachusetts, schools closed for the day due to the severe weather conditions. In Holden, MA reports say that the roads are impassable even for emergency vehicles. Police are restricting vehicle access until the situation can be remedied. The entire town of Holden is without power. Storrow Drive, a main thoroughfare in Boston, has closed and reopened twice today due to flooding from clogged storm drains. Northern and Central Worcester county, in the middle of the state, was hit the worst, according to the Herald.
Routes 20 and 2 were particularly hard hit, with downed tree limbs blocking the roads.
By declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick can mobilize the national guard to help restore order.
A former resident of Massachusetts, I have poignant winter storm memories including the Blizzard of 1978 when a state of emergency closed the state for a week. The Blizzard of 1978 dumped 27.1 inches of snow on Boston, the largest snowfall on record since counts began in 1871. Not only did the Blizzard bury everything in sight, it blew through with hurricane force winds up to 79 m.p.h. 73 deaths, 4324 storm-related injuries or illnesses, $500 million in damages occurred, according to statistics. 3500 vehicles were stranded and abandoned on Rte. 128.
Stranded on campus only begins the story of a week living under a state of emergency in Massachusetts. Between the avalanche of snow and the abandoned vehicles, then Governor Michael Dukakis ordered a ban on driving except for emergencies. National Guard trucks rumbled by fairly regularly once the plows made their initial sweeps, and it wasn’t too hard for a tuckered out college student plodding through the snow to get a ride on the back of one of those trucks. Those who had cross country skis used them for transportation- although for the first few days there weren’t many places to go.
During the state of emergency in 1978, all businesses were closed, by order of the governor, including grocery stores. BC, despite its Christian underpinnings, decided that the university bore no responsibility to share food with students who had opted not to purchase the meal plan, public emergency or not. We students living in apartments scrambled back and forth, mixing and matching foods to try to fashion some sort of shared repast.
While the grocery stores were not open during the first days of the state of emergency, some of the liquor stores violated the governor’s ban and opened, with fairly predictable results in a college community. Boys with sleds took orders and headed out to return with boxes of alcohol to supplant our meager diet of food scraps. When the grocery stores did reopen midweek, supplies were not arriving regularly and food on hand immediately sold out, leaving us to eat odd assortments of whatever our designated shoppers could grab up. I remember not so fondly one meal of half of a frozen Salisbury steak and a few spoonfuls of frozen corn, the only thing left at the grocery store when our sled arrived.
Luckily, the Massachusetts state of emergency this week is expected to last only through the weekend and many businesses are operating normally.
Sources: http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1138607&srvc=home&position=active; http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/12/12/ice_storm_wreaks_havoc_in_wmass/?p1=Well_MostPop_Emailed6; http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2008/12/nh-declares-eme.html; http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/papers/blizzard78/mainblizzardof78.htm.