Business resumes in R.I., Bristol County, Mass., after third nor’easter

THE MAJORITY OF the New England region was blanketed with at least 1 foot of snow from Tuesday’s nor’easter, with some communities in Rhode Island receiving more than 20 inches. / COURTESY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
THE MAJORITY OF the New England region was blanketed with at least 1 foot of snow from Tuesday’s nor’easter, with some communities in Rhode Island receiving more than 20 inches. / COURTESY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

PROVIDENCE – Business as usual is returning to the area after Tuesday’s nor’easter dumped at least a foot of snow in some communities, keeping most of Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass., indoors for 24 hours.

Twenty-five Rhode Island communities and 14 Bristol County communities received at least 1 foot of snow from the storm, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton. Five cities and towns in Rhode Island – Foster, Burrillville, Woonsocket, Scituate and North Smithfield – got more than 20 inches of snow, with Foster and Burrillville getting at least 25 inches.

Several Rhode Island public school districts were delayed in starting classes on Wednesday, some of them having two-hour delays – including Providence, Cranston and West Warwick – according to the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association. North Providence, Tiverton, Pawtucket and Woonsocket cancelled school, as well as Acushnet, Attleboro, Dartmouth, Dighton-Rehoboth, Fairhaven, Fall River, Mansfield, North Attleboro, New Bedford, Somerset and Taunton in Bristol County.

Parking bans until further notice are still in effect in North Providence, North Smithfield, West Warwick and Woonsocket. Swansea’s ban was scheduled to be lifted by noon Wednesday and Cumberland expects to end its ban at 4 p.m. Providence plans on lifting its ban at 5 a.m. Thursday.

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But Tuesday’s storm didn’t create as much havoc across the area as the two previous weather events earlier this month. Outside a few incidents on the roads, residents heeded Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s plea to stay indoors and off the roads to get most of the state roads down to pavement by Wednesday morning’s commute, R.I. Emergency Management Agency Director Peter T. Gaynor said Wednesday morning.

“It’s back to normal business today,” Gaynor said.

Outside of a few downed wires and branches, Gaynor said there was no “real damage” to report across the state, as well as no coastal issues from the fast-moving storm.

R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti deployed 140 state trucks and about 310 private vendors to clear the roads during Tuesday’s storm. He said Wednesday morning plow operations wrapped up at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday, with some additional trucks staying on to clear out any drifting snow from the roads.

“We had a good amount of treatment [done to the roads] for the morning commute to make sure we didn’t have ice,” Alviti said. “But I’m very pleased with the performance of our maintenance division. I think our men and women did a wonderful job and showed good effort and maintained good morale throughout the whole process.”

The tractor-trailer ban, which expired at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and residents staying off the roads throughout the day was essential in RIDOT having the necessary space to plow, Alviti said.

Alviti also said state government offices, which were closed Tuesday, are back operating Wednesday. A message left with Raimondo’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

National Grid restored power to 30,000 customers in Rhode Island since Tuesday’s peak outage total of approximately 35,000 across the state, spokesman Tim Rondeau said Wednesday morning. Just over 4,000 Rhode Island customers and 1,037 Bristol County customers were still without power as of 10:45 a.m., which Rondeau said he expects the “vast majority” of customers to have power back by tonight.

“We’re working around the clock, making sure every last customer is up [and running],” Rondeau said. “Some single customers could be [waiting for power] into [Thursday], but most of them [should be] back by tonight.”

Rondeau said the snow was “heavier” than forecasted, resulting in more outages than expected. But, National Grid, Rondeau said, had a “full complement” of crews on hand from the previous two storms to help get the electricity back up and running.

Transportation services are getting back on line. The MBTA’s commuter rail, which was on an “extremely reduced” schedule – a step above no trains running – during Tuesday’s storm, is running its regular schedule Wednesday, said Tory Mazzola, director of public affairs for Keolis Commuter Services, the firm that operates the MBTA commuter rail.

There were some “minor” delays on various railways Tuesday due to low visibility, causing trains to travel at slower speeds, Mazzola said. But, Mazzola said, the reduced schedule and longer increments between trains allowed MBTA crews to clear snow off the tracks “quickly and safely.”

Mazzola asked passengers to allow for extra time in planning their travel schedules, as he still expects some minor delays in train arrivals – approximately between 5-15 minutes past their arriving times – because cleanup efforts are continuing.

“Passengers should use caution on platforms, as crews are clearing snow on the platforms and tracks and applying salt on the tracks,” Mazzola said. “But blowing snow could still exist, so please use caution.”

Mazzola said Wednesday morning there haven’t been any delays on the Providence-Stoughton line at that point. He also said there were about 12 down trees on the tracks across the grid that needed to be cleared.

T.F. Green Airport is also getting back to normal Wednesday after a plethora of passenger flights in and out of the airport were cancelled Tuesday. According to the R.I. Airport Corp.’s website, six flights departed on time between just after 8 a.m. and noon, and 29 flights are scheduled to depart on time from noon until 7:40 p.m. Just three flights are scheduled to depart later than their scheduled times.

RIAC spokesman Bill Fischer said Wednesday morning T.F. Green never lost the runway during Tuesday’s storm. While passenger planes weren’t taking off, cargo planes and corporate jets were departing throughout the day, Fischer said, as well as having “incremental” departures and arrivals.

However, 17 departing flights were cancelled Wednesday morning between 5:05 and 10:55 a.m. Fischer said the cancellations were due to flights not arriving into T.F. Green and planes operate on a “loop” schedule.

“You can’t have departures without arrivals,” Fischer said.

Most of the arriving flights into T.F. Green will come in on time, according to the RIAC website. Only two were cancelled early this morning.

The R.I. Public Transit Authority announced via press release it resumed regular service Wednesday after it suspended service Tuesday afternoon. RIPTA detoured more than 30 routes throughout the day Tuesday before putting service on hold.

RIPTA advises riders may experience some delays or detours “due to the slippery road conditions or streets still being cleared,” the release states, as well as urging riders to use “extreme caution” at bus stops either while waiting or departing. Riders should also monitor RIPTA’s website for any updates on routes or other reports.

James Bessette is a PBN staff writer.