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Mother Nature Unleashes Dangerous Storms


On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Several parts of the country spent time fending off the weather this past weekend. Mississippi residents lived through moments of terror last night. A tornado struck Hattiesburg, home to the University of Southern Mississippi, where Leslie Nash(ph) is a student.

LESLIE NASH: We ran downstairs, got into the bathtub. We just heard all kinds of noise, debris hitting the building, and in less than two minutes, everything kind of calmed down and we walked outside, and there were people gathering, just crying and screaming.

INSKEEP: The tornado knocked trees into houses and cars. It badly damaged buildings. It was one of several tornadoes in the South, and as of now, not a single death as been reported.

MONTAGNE: In the Northeast, the weekend blizzard is being blamed for at least 11 deaths, record-breaking levels of snow and hurricane-force winds created problems from Maine to New Jersey.

INSKEEP: And let's report on the aftermath of New England. Connecticut remains under a state of emergency, after more than three feet of snow fell in places. All non-essential state employees have the day off.

In Boston, schools remain closed. Public transportation is restarting after a 48-hour shutdown. And just as people recover today, it's expected to rain.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: The town of Hamden, Connecticut is digging out from the biggest dump. Some 40 inches fell, leaving the town with way more snow than places to put it.

MAYOR SCOTT JACKSON: This is too much snow to plow. We have payloaders moving snow.

SMITH: Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson says 16 more trucks showed up last night from New York to help cart snow to dumping grounds. But still, he says, streets that would take a minute to plow are taking hours to clear.

JACKSON: Sometimes Mother Nature deals a card that is not in your deck.

SMITH: Mayor Jackson and his counterparts from New Haven, West and East Haven implored residents to...

JACKSON: Stay home. Stay home.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Please don't go out. Stay home.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We know everybody wants to go out. Please be patient.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It is just not safe to come out yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Little by little.


SMITH: In Massachusetts, where a mere 20 to 30 inches fell - even plows got stuck - a state-wide ban on all non-emergency road travel - the first since the blizzard of '78 - has lifted, but officials are also discouraging unnecessary travel, so commuters might have more than a snowball's chance.

CHRIS CASTO: I've never seen it like this before at all.


SMITH: Snow plower Chris Casto(ph) was clearing a small street just west of Boston yesterday, stacking snow eight feet high and running on fumes.

CASTO: The guys are getting tired driving. You got to sleep at some point.

SMITH: Yeah. How long you been at it?

CASTO: Four days, since Friday morning, sanding and then plowing. And I've had about four hours off.

SMITH: Casto says he wishes the travel ban was still in effect.

CASTO: There's a lot of cars going out sight-seeing now. They shouldn't be. They should be inside.

SMITH: And as if on cue, a call comes to his cell phone.

CASTO: I got somebody that's stuck in snow bank. I'll be right back.

SMITH: Thank you.


SMITH: Massachusetts' coastal communities were among the worst hit. Waves taller than houses surged over seawalls in Scituate, flooding homes, and big chunks of snow floating on icy water made rivers out of roads.

JOHN IGNATIUS MCDONOUGH: We get kind of swallowed up in the whole deal. It just kind of overwhelmed us.

SMITH: Seventy-nine-year-old John Ignatius McDonough(ph) lost power and fled his home in Plymouth for a nearby shelter. The number of those seeking refuge was increasing yesterday, even as some were finally able to leave on newly cleared roads.

DORRIANE PORTER: I think here she comes. I hope.

SMITH: Sixty-eight-year-old Dorraine Porter(ph) couldn't wait to be picked up from the shelter by a friend who offered to take her in.

PORTER: She has fireplace, and she has food. She can cook. So I'm glad to get out. I'm tired of sleeping on a cart, and I need a hot shower.

SMITH: Massachusetts saw the most power outages in the region. Some entire towns were dark, but Governor Deval Patrick says repairs are going better than after recent storms, when utilities were fined for their slow response.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: The teams are all tired, but I know they're trying to - as they describe it - hit it hard. But if you're the one without power, you know, you're impatient and I totally understand that. More to the point, they understand that.

SMITH: The pace picked up yesterday after roads cleared and the fierce winds died down. The gusts left snowdrifts looking like spectacular frozen sculptures and snow cover totally unpredictable.

ALEX KORRIAY: One minute, it could be up to your ankles. The next minute, it could be, like, up to your thigh. You don't know.

SMITH: Thirteen-year-old Alex Korriay(ph) was one of many young and old sledding yesterday in Newton, Massachusetts.


SMITH: All right.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: She's a screamer.

SMITH: Screams of joy on a snowy Sunday afternoon, but this morning after, trying to move by car, rather than sled, not so much. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Newton, Massachusetts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.

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