PROVIDENCE — Calling it a “very serious storm,” Gov. Gina M. Raimondo addressed the media at the R.I. Emergency Management Agency in Cranston Tuesday morning, again urging residents to stay safe as the wetter than expected snow begins to blanket the region.
The National Weather Service is predicting much of Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass., will receive more than a foot of snow Tuesday once the all-day storm moves out. High winds are also expected with this nor’easter, the third that has hit the area in less than two weeks.
“This is just the beginning,” Raimondo said. “We expect the snow to continue throughout the day and not tapering off until later today.
“Please stay off the roads. We want to get through this safely.”
Raimondo reiterated she closed state government for the day and urged businesses to have their employees work from home, emphasizing she wants people to get through the storm “with no injuries.”
A tractor trailer truck ban, which the state put into effect prior to the storm’s arrival, is still in effect until 4 p.m. today, Raimondo said, and state emergency officials will re-evaluate it if there is a need to have the ban last longer. R.I. State Police Col. Ann C. Assumpico said the ban is working and there are no trucks out on the road. On March 2, tractor trailer trucks were blown over on their side on both the Newport Pell and Braga bridges, with the Newport incident resulting in the Pell Bridge’s temporary closure. Raimondo said bridges are currently open and are being monitored in the event a closure is necessary.
No “major” accidents or any injuries as the result of this storm have occurred, Raimondo said, and she wants it “kept that way.”
State Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. said the driving conditions are “very bad,” also recommending motorists to stay home if it’s not necessary to travel. RIDOT has deployed 140 state trucks and about 310 private vendors to clear the roads, Alviti said. Those plows were on the roads at approximately 10 p.m. Monday pretreating the roads and it turned into a “plowing operation” by 3 a.m., Alviti said.
“We will stay out there until the roads are clear,” Alviti said. “So the plan is working. But it is a challenge [for motorists] to be out there among the plow trucks. If you need to be on the road, we ask you to stay a clear distance in back of the plow trucks.”
If plans go accordingly, Alviti said all the roads should be clear by Wednesday morning’s commute.
In Providence, city Emergency Management Director Kevin Kugel said Tuesday morning that the wetter snow allowed roads to remain clearer much longer overnight, giving crews more time to keep up with it. Even though the snow is heavier, Kugel said there will be less snow than he initially thought.
While the streets in Providence are “relatively clear,” Kugel said travel is still dangerous.
Pawtucket Emergency Management Director Norm Menard said early Tuesday afternoon said there was one outage in the city being worked on and 51 plows have been out on the roads in both Pawtucket and Central Falls since pretreating early this morning. They began plow operations at about 5 a.m., Menard said.
“It’s been very quiet thus far,” Menard said. “The fire department has been quiet. It’s been a routine day.” Menard also said parking bans in both cities are still in effect until further notice, depending on how snow operations go.
It has also been relatively quiet in Warwick, Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief James McLaughlin said Tuesday afternoon. The city has approximately 500 people without power in the Warwick Avenue and Sandy Lane area, McLaughlin said, and there have been minimal emergency calls.
“People have seemed to heed the warning to stay off the roads,” McLaughlin said. “We really have nothing too significant.”
Rail service, thus far, is minimal. Tory Mazzola, director of public affairs for Keolis Commuter Services – which operates the MBTA commuter rail – said Tuesday morning he’s seen “significantly lighter ridership” than a normal weekday because people are not even traveling to the train stations, let alone commuting to work, because of the weather.
“A lot of the people are taking the good advice to stay home,” Mazzola said. “Which is good, because it’s safe.”
Along with urging caution, Mazzola reminds riders the MBTA is running on a “extremely reduced” schedule Tuesday and urges they check the MBTA’s website for scheduling information.
The storm is also affecting air travel. All arriving flights into T.F. Green Airport between 8 a.m. to just after 7 p.m., and 57 departing flights from 5 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. have been canceled, according to the R.I. Airport Corp. website.
RIAC spokesman Bill Fischer said T.G. Green experienced “significant” cancellations late Monday night from originating airports. There are a “handful” of flights this afternoon that haven’t been canceled, Fischer said, but the status of those flights is up in the air. Fischer urges travelers to check with their individual airlines for their flight status before heading to the airport.
National Grid is already reporting 22,115 Rhode Island customers and 8,230 Bristol County, Mass., customers are without power as of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday from the storm. Raimondo said Tuesday morning the outages result from the snow being wetter than originally forecast and plans to hold National Grid “accountable” to have power restored as quickly as possible. Customers are urged to call (800) 465-1212 if their power goes down.
Additionally, the storm forced the R.I. Public Transit Authority to detour 31 routes Tuesday. Routes 13, 18, 21, 29, 30, 32, 49, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67, 71, 87 and 92 are currently on detour. The number of detours has increased throughout the day. RIPTA will also not serve any Park N’ Rides, and service on Routes 8X, 9X, 10X, 12x, 59X, 61X, 65X and 95X has been suspended. Flex Service has also been suspended.
RIPTA says service is running behind by approximately 10-30 minutes and riders should use extreme caution at bus stops due to decreased visibility and slippery conditions.
A few banks closed their local branches Tuesday due to the storm. Citizens Bank, per its Twitter page, has closed all branches in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut for the day, and branches in five Vermont communities. Webster Bank is closed for the day in both Rhode Island and Connecticut, according to a press release issued late Monday, and Bank Rhode Island closed all locations Tuesday, per its website. The three respective banks’ websites are currently operational for customers to do banking.
Dave’s Marketplace, on its Facebook page, closed all stores Tuesday “in the interest of safety” and plans to reopen after the storm passes.
James Bessette is a PBN staff writer.