Snow has piled up throughout the region and roadways are dangerous. RIPTA suspended service for the evening because of worsening conditions. I-95 has reopened but state police are urging motorists to stay off the roads. Providence and several other cities closed schools again Friday.
Providence city officials have closed schools for a second day in a row, following a fast-moving winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to much of the region. Schools in Cranston, Warwick, New Bedford, Boston and several other cities will also close Friday.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza's office said a citywide parking ban will lift at 6 o'clock on Friday morning. Trash pickup was scheduled to resume on a one-day delay.
State Police reported all lanes of I-95 had re-opened to traffic. But they continued to urge drivers to stay off the roads, citing snow and icy conditions.
On Block Island, wind gusts clocked 60 miles per hour in blizzard conditions. National Weather Service forecasters warned the winds could reach 70 miles per hour later in the evening.
"We’ve had intermittent white-out conditions through most of the afternoon," said New Shoreham Police Officer Beth Russo.
Russo reported a few power issues but no serious accidents.
"Everybody has stayed off the roads and stayed safe."
And Block Islanders are used to whipping winds.
"We get winds like this quite frequently," said Russo. "It’s just mixed with snow this time, so it makes it difficult to see."
Brave the storm or wait it out?
While some residents hunkered down waiting for the snow to stop, a few hearty New Englanders got a head start on shoveling out. Clad in ski goggles and wielding a snow blower, Providence resident Glenn Mitchell headed out into stinging wind and increasingly cold temperatures.
"Well you gotta get through it," Mitchell said, as he cleared the walk outside his Federal Hill home. "Come out a couple different times during the storm to keep ahead of it, so tomorrow morning we can get right out and get to work."
Nearby, resident Fernando Santiago was already clearing his steps for the second time in one day.
"It sucks man, we just need a lot of help, and everybody has to be prepared before all this happens," he said.
Postal workers continued their regular rounds despite the storm.
"We try to deliver the mail wherever we can or where it’s safe," said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Christine Dugas . "And when I say where we can, you know sometimes you might not be able to get down the street because it hasn’t yet been plowed- they can’t do all the streets at once."
Indeed, snow plow driver Tony Jenkins found it difficult to keep roads clear through the day. He stopped for a moment on Providence's West Side to clear ice off his truck windows.
"It’s tough, it’s nice and heavy and icy. Snow’s heavy so you got to stay at it all day long," Jenkins said.
More than 7,700 National Grid customers in Rhode Island remain without power, down from 18,000 earlier in the day. The utility reported scattered outages across the state and in some parts of southern Massachusetts.
So far no major injuries reported on the roads, but State Police said they responded to 15 crashes and more than 70 vehicles off the road.
Southbound Interstate 95 had to be closed at Exit 7 (Coventry/West Greenwich) because of trucks sliding around on the icy road. Another tractor trailer incident blocked part of 295 earlier in the day, but the highway remained open and the truck has been cleared.
In Richmond and Hopkinton, highway lanes on 95 had reopened, but State Police said traffic remained slow.
Visibility has been a challenge all day, and plows have struggled to keep up with fast-falling snow. Officials continued to urge residents to stay off the roads as much as possible.
Breaking news from the Rhode Island State Police: "Interstate 95 is closed between Exits 2 and 3, between Richmond and Hopkinton, because of numerous traffic-related incidents."
State Police reported several tractor trailor trucks stuck on that section of road, which has an incline. Traffic was diverted onto Route 3 South, but State Police said drivers on that road were experiencing delays. Officials continued to urge Rhode Islanders to stay off the roads as much as possible, citing deteriorating driving conditions.
The National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Warning through 8 p.m. for southeast Providence County and Eastern Massachusetts. Forecasters said heavy snow and scattered thunderstorms could accompany gusty winds and accumulations of up to 18 inches of snow.
Snowfall was expected to remain heavy at times through the afternoon before tapering off to snow showers in the evening.
National Grid was reporting more than 160 power outages, affecting nearly 19,000 Rhode Island customers.
At T.F. Green Airport, all but one departing flight, an evening route to Atlanta, had been canceled. Commuter trains were running on a regular weekday schedule, but several trains were delayed 10-30 minutes.MBTA alerts said the delay was due to "an Amtrak switch issue" in Attleboro.
'Thundersnow' reported in North Providence, Taunton and elsewhere
Reports of thunder and lightning have accompanied this winter storm, a phenomenon known as "thundersnow."
Well, the National Weather Service says it happens when a snowstorm is accompanied by strong instability and abundant moisture above the surface, such as above a warm front, causing lightning. The phenomenon is less common in the Northeast but sometimes reported in the Great Lakes region. Thundersnow is also called "white lightning."
So far, RIPR has received reports of thundersnow in Providence, Bristol, East Greenwich, East Providence, North Providence and Taunton. Let us know if you saw or heard it too! Email the newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Grid is reporting more than 10,000 Rhode Island customers without power due to outages in several parts of the state. The largest number of outages, affecting nearly 5,000 customers, are in the Providence and Cranston area. More customers are without power near Narragansett, Westerly and East Providence, among other areas. National Grid currently estimates power will be restored by 4 p.m. You can find the latest information and report outages here.
RIPTA says it will suspend all service by 5 p.m. because of worsening road conditions.
According to state police, heavy snowfall is creating dangerous conditions on roadways. RI State Police have investigated five minor car crashes so far and helped motorists who slid off the road, especially in northern Rhode Island. No major injuries have been reported.
State police in Connecticut tweeted that they have responded to 72 crashes, 232 spinouts and stuck vehicles, and 601 calls for service so far.
RIPTA is detouring or suspending several bus routes. The transit authority suggests passengers check http://www.ripta.com/ before setting out.
Flights leaving T.F. Green Airport are canceled through the late afternoon. The airport suggests customers check with airlines for flight statuses.
“The roads are mostly slush covered at this point, but we do expect conditions to go downhill,” said RIDOT spokesman, Charles St. Martin.
St. Martin reminds people that if they are forced to be on the roads today, to leave 100-feet for snow plows.
For more on what RIDOT is doing to tackle snow, click here.
Captain Matthew Moynahan with the Rhode Island State Police said Rhode Islanders are keeping the roads clear and staying off the roads.
"We are reporting that there is light traffic which is a good sign that people are heeding our warnings and staying home," said Moynahan.
"If you can stay home and don’t need to travel that’s your best option so our DOT crews can effectively clear the snow," added Moynahan.
Accumulation forecasts have increased in the last twenty-four hours, but the start of snowfall has been pushed back. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service Matt Doody says not to be fooled by the delay.
“It’ll be quick, from nothing to fairly heavy snow,” warned Doody.
"We are expecting snowfall rates close to two to three inches per hour, during the mid-morning into the afternoon across the state," said Stephanie Dutton, also a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Doody added, “Inland and even most of the Narragansett coastlines will be generally 12 to 18 [inches]. Closer to the southern coast- Westerly to Point Judith- you’re looking at somewhere on the order of 10 to 12 [inches].”