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A house on the Plum Island seacoast in Newbury, Mass., sits partially collapsed into the churning surf, driven by winds from a slow-moving storm centered far out in the Atlantic Ocean, at high tide Friday morning, March 8, 2013. The storm dropped up to a foot of snow in some parts of New England, caused coastal flooding in Massachusetts and slowed the morning commute in the region to a slushy crawl. (AP Photo/Newburyport Daily News, Jim Vaiknoras)
Enduring storm surprises New England with big snow
First Published Mar 09 2013 01:44 pm • Last Updated Mar 09 2013 02:50 pm

Whitman, Mass. • The late-winter storm that buried parts of the country was forecast to be little more than a nuisance for most of New England. Try telling that to Connecticut and Massachusetts residents who spent two days shoveling as much as 2 feet of snow.

"The forecast was 4 to 6 inches and I think I’m looking at about 12 to 14 inches," West Roxbury resident Mark Spillane said as snow continued to fall Friday. "I did not expect to have to bring out the snow blower."

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The storm was centered far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and by the time it reached New England, forecasters were focused on the potential for coastal flooding and not snow, which in many places was predicted to reach a maximum of 6 or 8 inches.

The coastline was battered by three high tides during the duration of the storm, the worst Friday morning, when some roads in coastal towns were flooded with up to 3 feet of water. A vacant house on Plum Island, off the northeast coast of Massachusetts, was ripped from its foundation and collapsed into the sea. Other homes there were badly damaged.

But in most places, it was the persistent snow that threw people for a loop.

The National Weather Service reported nearly 13 inches of snow at Boston’s Logan International Airport as of 1 p.m., with more than 2 feet in a few Massachusetts towns and nearly that much in many others. Some parts of Connecticut and New Hampshire also saw more than a foot.

With spring less than two weeks away, Lisa Parisella, of Beverly, Mass., had been ready to dig out her sandals. Instead, she found herself donning her winter boots for a trip to the grocery store to make sure she had enough food for her kids, whose classes were canceled Friday.

"This was unexpected," said Parisella, 47, an office manager. Forecasts had called for 1 to 8 inches. Instead, her town had well over a foot by noon, and snow continued to fall. "I was ready to start decorating for spring. I was thinking, March, ready to take out the sandals, and I’m taking out the boots again."

Tim Wicker, a self-employed 32-year-old resident of Norwich, Conn., said the latest storm wasn’t too bad, but he was also longing for spring.

"The other day I was out in a T-shirt," Wicker said. "Now we’re dealing with this again. It’s going to be 54 on Sunday. It’s just New England."


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Charley Foley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, said the higher snowfalls were caused by winds swirling around the storm that subtly changed course from the northeast to a more northerly direction. That allowed the storm to tap colder air from Canada, pick up moisture from the warmer ocean and dump snow on New England.

"We did get somewhat surprised by higher snow amounts," Foley said.

The storm had been giving forecasters fits for days. After pummeling the Midwest earlier in the week, it dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in some parts of the mid-Atlantic but largely spared the nation’s capital despite warnings that as much as 10 inches could fall on Washington.

Some school districts, including Boston, were criticized for holding classes Friday despite icy sidewalks and poorly plowed roads.

Boston public schools spokesman Lee McGuire said schools were kept open because the weather forecast was so fluid. Thursday night’s forecast called for just a few inches of snow.

"We made the best decision we could with the information we had at the time," McGuire said.

The district said students whose parents kept them home Friday would be considered "constructively present" and their absences would be excused.

Boston resident Vera Miller was angry about the decision. She kept her grandchildren home after taking a look outside Friday morning.

"I said, ‘Oh no, you kids are staying home today,’" Miller said. "I just felt that school should have been canceled."

The snow made for a slippery Friday morning commute as far south as Pennsylvania and New York.

In Scituate, Mass., a shoreline town about 20 miles south of Boston, police Chief Brian Stewart breathed a sigh of relief Friday morning after high tide. The town got some coastal flooding — it almost always does during major storms — and eight roads were closed under 2 to 3 feet of water.

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