BOSTON — The projected epic storm that failed to deliver in New York City instead turned its full fury on eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing howling winds that created whiteout conditions across the region and upended life on Nantucket, where virtually everyone lost power as well as all methods of modern communications.
The 23 inches of snow that had blanketed Boston by Tuesday night hoisted the storm into the ranks of the 10 worst — or best, if you were a dog frolicking alongside a skier on the Boston Common.
“This is a very severe storm,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said at a late-afternoon briefing as snow continued to bombard parts of the region at the rate of 4 inches an hour. Subway service was to resume Wednesday morning, but Walsh said he was uncertain when a parking ban would end and if he would extend the city’s public school closings to Thursday. Limited Amtrak service between Boston and New York was to start back up on Wednesday. Jury selection in the Boston Marathon bombing trial was postponed for a second day and could resume Thursday.
The storm further isolated the island of Nantucket, where hurricane-force winds of 78 mph matched those on the top of Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, and forced the cancellation of ferries to the mainland. Almost all of Nantucket’s 12,000 year-round residents lost power, but they were making do.
“Like the rest of the island, #Nantucket Cottage Hospital lost power overnight but our generator is running, staff is here, and we are open,” the hospital said in a Twitter message. It delivered a “blizzard baby,” Cayden Moore, at 3:53 a.m.
Flooding engulfed parts of the Atlantic coastal community of Scituate, where a car floated downtown. The Massachusetts National Guard said on Tuesday evening that soldiers had helped to evacuate residents trapped by the water there.
As the storm lost its punch in much of southern New England, it gained in force in Maine; the Maine Turnpike was closed around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Heavy winds knocked over the tall ship Providence, a 110-foot replica of the vessel used by John Paul Jones in the late 1700s. It was in dry dock in Newport, Rhode Island, where its mast snapped.
As the sometimes-blinding snow continued to swirl Tuesday night, forecasters were still expecting the predicted 2 to 3 feet in some areas. In Worcester, about 40 miles west of Boston, the city broke its all-time record snowfall with 33.5 inches, beating the previous record of 33 inches set in 1997.
The good news for much of New England was that the snow was light and fluffy, not the wet, heavy kind that pulls down power lines. Still, by 10 p.m. on Tuesday, at least 16,500 customers in Massachusetts were without power, most of them on Cape Cod and in coastal areas.
On Nantucket, even the fire station lost power, but the police chief, William Pittman, said most of the fire equipment was out helping to transport people to a shelter.
“It will get cold tonight,” Pittman said. “We have to get people situated before dark if they want to be evacuated.”
That job was complicated by the near total loss of communication systems. “Some of our landlines are down, cell service is spotty, the Internet and TV are down, and the only thing we have is our public safety radio,” he said in an interview over that radio.
In Scituate, Massachusetts, about 30 miles southeast of Boston on the Atlantic Coast, officials pre-emptively shut off power to 200 homes in flood-prone areas in an attempt to prevent fires, the town administrator, Patricia Vinchesi, said.
“We experienced two serious fires in 2010, where firefighters had to put out fires and rescue people in 8 feet of water,” Vinchesi said. “So we shut off power to 200 homes in the areas that are always flooded because, if there was a problem, we could not get people there.”
By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of downed electric wires, flooding and debris blocked six streets in Scituate, and some houses sustained significant damage.
“In some areas there is definitely 3 to 4 feet of water in the roadways,” said Anthony V. Vegnani, a Scituate selectman. He added, “It will recede.”
The only injury reported involved a man in Boston who was being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after snow clogged his car exhaust.
States of emergency were in effect across New England, with Maine the last to declare one, early Tuesday. “The amount of snow and the high winds, along with blowing and drifting snow, makes this storm dangerous for many Mainers,” Gov. Paul R. LePage said in making the declaration. Schools and town offices were closed from Kittery, on the New Hampshire border, to Eastport, on the Canadian border.
At noon Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker lifted a statewide travel ban in four western Massachusetts counties and planned to lift it for the rest of the state. A study last year by IHS Global Insight put the state’s economic cost of a one-day storm at $265 million, including lost wages, taxes and retail sales.
Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island closed state government on Tuesday and lifted a travel ban at 8 p.m.
“There were a few cars out there that were not obeying this travel ban, and they were all stuck,” she said after she imposed the ban, noting that even a Department of Transportation vehicle had flipped over.
Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire closed her state’s government but did not order a travel ban because she did not want law enforcement officials distracted by having to enforce it.
She suspended tolls at the six collection points for 24 hours — the first time in memory, said Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the State Department of Transportation.
Despite the intensity of the storm, many New Englanders took it in stride.
“This is nothing,” said Steve Fior, 62, who was out with a snowblower in front of the property he manages in Providence, Rhode Island, merrily puffing on a cigar.
“It’s just another snowstorm,” he said. “You live here, you put up with it.”
Kappy’s, a huge liquor store north of Boston, flashed a sign on its electronic billboard that read “Milk and Bread Are Overrated,” referring to the run on those items that had emptied many grocery store shelves.
Roger Carroll of The Telegraph of Nashua, in New Hampshire, sent out this message on Twitter: “Here’s how you know storm is serious: NH is closing liquor stores on Tuesday. #nhpolitics #hellfreezesover”
In Belfast, Maine, Joe Benjamin, 40, the owner of the High Street Market, was the epitome of the taciturn New Englander, unfazed by the storm. “It’s a lot of snow at one time,” he said. “But we’ve seen it before.”