The third winter storm this month knocked out power to tens of thousands of residents and businesses, closed schools and state offices, and dropped more than foot of snow in some parts of Rhode Island and the South Coast. Blizzard conditions were confirmed in some areas, including Newport.
Who got the most snow? A spotter in North Foster recorded 21.9 inches of snow as of 4:52 p.m. Woonsocket and Burrillville weren't far behind, with reports of 20 inches. Snow totals ranged from a little more than 9 inches in Providence to 15.7 inches in North Dighton, near Fall River.
National Grid expected crews to work through the night restoring power, blaming heavier than expected snow for power outages that were more widespread than predicted.
"It’s definitely a storm that’s blanketing Rhode Island in its severity," said Tim Rondeau, spokesman for National Grid. "We’re watching it and going out and making repairs as we can."
Rondeau said crews would be able to ramp up restoration efforts once the winds died down, making it safer for workers to go up in bucket trucks to fix overhead power lines.
"They have tools to let them know the wind conditions and whether it’s safe to go up and do so," he explained.
Some area residents got a jump on clearing steps and sidewalks even before the snow stopped falling. Bob Petrarca of Warwick was out shoveling snow in front of his wife’s small business.
"I’m married to her, so I get the nice job of cleaning up after it, that's about it," Petrarca told RIPR's John Bender. "I’m doing some shoveling, and then I’m going to head back home and sit with her in front of the fireplace."
Providence resident Paul Taro spent more than an hour clearing his walk with a snowblower.
"It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, to be honest with you," he said. "Not as heavy as the last storm, by no means, but it's got a little weight to it."
Governor Raimondo: Storm Is Not Over Yet
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo urged drivers to stay off the roads Tuesday afternoon, as State Police reported more than half a dozen accidents in just a few hours.
Raimondo said a break in the storm had some drivers thinking it was safe to go out on roads and highways. It wasn't.
"I'm out on the highway right now," Raimondo told RIPR as she drove through the state assessing the impact of the storm. "It is unsafe to drive. And I am urging all drivers to stay off the roads."
Raimondo extended a ban on tractor trailer traffic until 8 p.m.
"Unfortunately some of the truckers aren't abiding by that ban, and we are asking them to stay off the roads until 8 o'clock tonight so that our plows can do their work," Raimondo said, adding, "by the morning I think we'll be back open for business."
RIPTA Suspends Afternoon Bus Service
Transit officials announced bus service would end for the day in Rhode Island at 3:30 p.m. due to "deteriorating" road conditions.
"Safety is RIPTA’s top priority, and intensifying storm conditions are making it dangerous to remain on the road," the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority said in an email.
Prior to the cancellation, the agency noted that more than 30 routes were running detours, and few passengers were taking advantage of the service.
RIPTA said buses would resume normal routes and schedules on Wednesday, provided road conditions were clear.
Residents Hunker Down During Storm
From Newport to Rumford, residents waited out the snow storm. A few hearty souls headed out to clear their driveways in an attempt to stay ahead of the accumulating snow, but most remained indoors as the storm continued with snow and strong wind.
In East Providence, snowplows were out clearing major roadways, but side streets in the Rumford section remained covered by snow around mid-day. The streets of downtown Providence remained nearly empty, with the exception of a few buses and emergency vehicles.
On Aquidneck Island, the snow didn’t begin falling until after 4 a.m., but what it lacked in punctuality it made up for in intensity. By noon several inches had fallen and the streets of Newport were treacherous.
The snow was wet and heavy, and winds gusts approaching 50 miles an hour were reported, causing power outages. By early afternoon National Grid said some 2,000 customers on Aquidneck Island were without power.
Significant power outages were reported in several other communities, including Warwick, Fall River and Hopkinton, and nearly 4,000 Eversource customers in Dartmouth.
National Grid said crews would focus restoration efforts on emergencies and high-priority customers, including hospitals, until the winds died down.
"In conditions like this we’ll respond to critical customers such as hospitals, nursing homes and any emergency situations that we can," said Tim Rondeau, spokesman for National Grid. "Unfortunately our crews can’t go up in bucket trucks when the winds are exceeding 35 miles an hour."
Rondeau said crews were expecting conditions to ease some time Tuesday evening and would work as long as it took to restore power. He added that the type of snow brought by the storm contributed to the number of outages.
"As we're seeing right now, it's heavy and it's wet, and so that's causing trees to come down, branches on wires, etc."
Power Outages Mount Quickly In Storm
In spite of predictions for a powdery, dry snow, Tuesday's storm brought plenty of wet, heavy flakes, and by 10 a.m. power outages had begun to spread.
National Grid reported nearly 22,000 homes and businesses without power in Rhode Island, including more than 5,000 in North Kingstown and 1,200 in Little Compton, nearly half the utility's customers in that town. In Exeter, more than 2,000 homes and businesses had lost power, more than half of the utility's customers there.
In Massachusetts, about 1,000 National Grid customers in Fall River faced a day of stormy weather without power. The utility estimated power would not be restored before 6:30 p.m.
It's Snow Secret, The Third Nor'easter Is Here
As heavy snow began falling Tuesday morning in the third nor'easter this month, forecasters expected strong winds to follow, causing blizzard conditions in some areas. Rhode Island Public Radio spoke with Kim Buttrick from the National Weather Service about what to expect for Tuesday's storm.
At 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, National Grid reported 93 active outages in Rhode Island affecting 5,898 homes and businesses. The majority of the outages were in East Greenwich with 1,387 customers affected. In Massachusetts, 21,456 National Grid customers were without power. The majority of the outages were reported in Essex county along the coast. Rhode Island Public Radio will continue to monitor and update outage numbers through the storm.
Schools closed across the region, as did Rhode Island state offices. Flights were cancelled at area airports. You can find a full list of closures and parking bans here.
On The Roads, Accidents Begin During Early Morning Hours
State police reported six accidents on Rhode Island roads by 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, including one minor injury. A state police spokeswoman said a transformer blew on Bridge Street in Hope Valley causing a power outage. National Grid had been notified and was reportedly responding.
Emergency management officials urged residents to stay off the roads during the storm, which was expected to dump at least a foot of snow in Rhode Island and possibly as much as two feet in some parts of the South Shore in Massachusetts. At the usual commuting hour on Tuesday, it appeared that many people heeded those warnings. A few cars could be seen driving through Providence as the storm began picking up steam, but far fewer than a typical day.
RI Gov: State Is Ready For The Storm
On Monday night, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo told residents the state was ready for what she called a "major snow event." She asked employers to be flexible and allow workers to stay at home. The governor also announced a ban on tractor-trailer traffic from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
This post has been updated.