By Elizabeth Barber
BOSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Northeast struggled to dig out on Sunday from the latest in a series of winter storms that made February the snowiest month in Boston’s history, but bitter cold and huge drifts hampered the effort.
Blizzard conditions forced the cancellation of more than 1,800 U.S. airline flights, most of them into and out of airports in Boston and New York, where wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) were predicted.
Temperatures are 25 to 30 degrees (14 to 17 degrees Celsius) below normal for the East Coast, exacerbated by strong winds, said meteorologist Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service, adding the region was in the grip of “a brutally cold air mass.”
The temperature at 1 p.m. in Boston was around 18 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius), but felt like zero (minus 18 Celsius) thanks to wind chill. By Monday morning, it was likely to feel like minus 20 (minus 29 Celsius), the NWS said.
The latest storm heaped disappointment on retailers who were relying on the Presidents’ Day weekend and Valentine’s Day to make up for subpar sales during the last three lashings of snow.
Massive snowfall from Boston’s fourth major snowstorm in two weeks set a record for the city’s snowiest month since weather records were kept, the NWS said.
Boston had seen about 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow since late January and had already set a record for accumulations in a single week.
“Hopefully, it will stop eventually,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said on Sunday.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker set his sights beyond the seemingly endless snowbanks to the stadium where the Boston Red Sox play, saying, “It’s 58 days until opening day at Fenway Park.”
He urged drivers to stay off the roads on Sunday and said he was relieved the holiday on Monday would keep traffic down and give snow plows a chance to clear them.
Some Boston restaurants sought to coax customers out of hibernation for a meal or drink on Sunday evening, when the snow was expected to let up. One South Boston eatery added the hashtag “#cabin fever” to its Twitter messages.
“You don’t want to stay penned up all day,” said Allie Needham, 26, a business analyst at a chemical company, as she walked along an empty street in Cambridge on her way to meet friends for breakfast.
With all public transportation suspended in Boston on Sunday, Bostonians got creative. In the Back Bay neighborhood, a snowboarder hitched a ride from a snowmobile. One resident on Twitter said it was about time for an entrepreneur to start up a dog sled service.
The area’s deepest snowfall on Sunday was 20 inches (50 cm), recorded in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a coastal town northeast of Boston, said NWS meteorologist Benjamin Sipprell.
Relentless winds were expected to pile up dangerous drifts of the lightweight snow, Sipprell said.
Across the state, about 600 members of the National Guard were helping out during the blizzard, said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Conditions were so bad in New Hampshire that the town of Alton called off its annual ice carnival this weekend.
While still shivering from the brutal cold expected to last through Monday, the East Coast is bracing for another storm front forming near the Tennessee Valley.
(Additional reporting by Brian Snyder in Boston; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Eric Walsh)