RI blizzard: Travel ban extended until midnight

·12 min read

A powerful nor'easter has left more than two feet of snow in parts of Rhode Island, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds gusted up to 75 miles per hour in Point Judith, but there were few power outages.

Live coverage of the storm has concluded. You can find the latest information about the clean-up and the snow totals here.

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Governor Dan McKee gives afternoon update on snowstorm

Gov. Dan McKee announced Saturday afternoon that the travel ban will be lifted at midnight, the bridges will also reopen then and state testing sites for COVID-19 will resume at noon Sunday.

RIPTA will resume bus service Sunday morning.

At his late afternoon press conference, McKee also joked that Jan. 29 will be remembered as the day news broke of Tom Brady's impending retirement rather than the Blizzard of 2022.

McKee said the storm, when finished, will have dumped 2 feet of snow in Rhode Island, likely the greatest accumulation here in a 24-hour period.

Because visibility continues to be bad, McKee is extending the travel ban for passenger vehicle and tractor-trailers. Some communities in South County had to pull their plows off the roads this afternoon but they are now back.

The Block Island ferry will also resume service Sunday.

Warming centers are open throughout the state, and Rhode Islanders can go to riema.ri.gov for more information.

“To have things go this smoothy is a credit to our workforce,” McKee said at a press briefing at the emergency management center in Cranston.

“Our goal is to make this a non-event,” he said, adding he would get his snow rake out tomorrow. “We feel like things are going well. But we still have a great deal of work to do.”

National Grid said there were 700 outages at the peak of the storm but as of 4 p.m., only 67 remained.

Massachusetts, however, got slammed, with 100,000 outages, many clustered along the eastern shore and Cape Cod.

-Linda Borg

McKee talks blizzard, and Tom Brady, on CNN

Gov. Dan McKee wore two hats Saturday as he talked about both the blizzard and Tom Brady.

“We thank you for covering the Tom Brady story because we’re encouraging people to stay home,” McKee told CNN anchor Phil Mattingly, adding that news of Brady’s retirement would help people stay indoors.

“Congratulations to him and his family and we wish him the very best,” McKee said while sitting in the command center where he had been watching the state’s progress in dealing with the storm.

McKee also took the opportunity to say that the blizzard was a “real event,” and as of late afternoon the state had seen very few power outages.

-David Ng

Lucky Enough tavern in Providence stays open during storm

PROVIDENCE — Art Chamberland could have been the busiest barkeep in town Saturday afternoon.

In part because he was the only one working at Lucky Enough Drink & Eat.

And in part because most businesses were closed during the nor'easter that blanketed New England.

"We're open every day," Chamberland told The Providence Journal in a phone interview. He lives just down the street from the tavern at 1492 Westminster St. "So we would be open every snowstorm. The staff lives close."

It was difficult to hear co-owner Chamberland over the crowd in the background, which he estimated at 15 to 20 people. But he said the vegan chili was selling well.

He added that he and his business partner, who opened the establishment in November, come from a cold-weather climate where nothing ever closes.

And then he had to go to tend to his patrons.

-Paul Edward Parker

Why is Massachusetts having more power problems?

As of 1:45 p.m., only about 54 National Grid customers in Rhode Island were without power, a lower number than many had expected.

Meanwhile, thousands in Massachusetts are without power, including many on outer Cape Cod.

Asked why Massachusetts is having more power problems, Michael Dalo, a spokesman for National Grid, said the weather, especially the wind, is worse in Massachusetts.

The storm's northeast winds are driving into the eastern shore of Massachusetts and northern shores of Cape Cod.

On Cape Cod, Wellfleet has recorded a gust of 83 mph., West Dennis has had a gust of 81 mph. In Rhode Island, Point Judith has had a gust of 75 mph and Block Island has had a gust of 72 mph.

Overall, fewer than 1% percent National Grid's customers in New England are without power, Dalo said.

Who is getting the most snow where are the biggest snowfall?

Max Agustin takes the first shift of shoveling at his family's County Road home in Barrington.
Max Agustin takes the first shift of shoveling at his family's County Road home in Barrington.

Some Rhode Island cities and towns were closing in on two feet of snow by midafternoon.

Warren was the leader, with 24.6 inches as of 5:40 p.m., according to updated reports to the National Weather Service.

West Warwick had 24 inches as of 5:19 p.m.; Barrington, Bristol, Tiverton and Westerly all reported 22 inches; and Providence reported 21.3 inches as of 7:07 p.m.

Newport had 21 inches as of 5:54 p.m.

Check the Weather Service's website for more snow accumulation reports.

Are the streets safe for pedestrians?

Saying they've received reports of near accidents between pedestrians and plow drivers, the Newport police are reminding everyone to stay off the streets.

"Due to poor visibly in the roadways. It is prohibited to ski , snowboard and all other snow activities in the Newport roadways," the police said in a Facebook post.

"Please allow drivers to clear the roads safely," the police said.

Did drivers comply with the Providence parking ban?

The City of Providence has towed about 200 cars, according to Providence Police Cmdr. Thomas Verdi.

As it does with all major storms, the city banned street parking for the blizzard that's hitting Southern New England.

More: Does your town have a parking ban? Here's where to leave your car during a snowstorm in RI

Which towns have gotten the most snow so far?

Several Rhode Island towns had already measured 6 inches of snow early Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The Weather Service posted snowfall and wind gust reports to its site around 10 a.m. It typically updates the numbers throughout storms.

Here are some highlights:

The highest total was reported in West Warwick, which had 6.3 inches as of 8 a.m. Little Compton had 6 inches as of 8:07 a.m. and Charlestown had 6 inches as of 8:25 a.m.

To the north, Burrillville had 5 inches as of 7:53 a.m. For wind gusts, the Block Island jetty had a 66 mph gust at 8:47 a.m., Newport had a 47 mph gust at 7:10 a.m. and T.F. Green Airport recorded a gust of 46 mph at 9:18 a.m.

Read more reports at the Weather Service's website.

McKee gives press briefing on R.I. blizzard conditions

Drivers were, for the most part, staying off state highways and plow crews were keeping up with the storm as of 9:30 a.m., but state officials expect things to get worse before they get better, they said at a morning briefing.

Winds, which are creating white-out conditions and blowing snow back onto cleared roadways are expected to abate by 4 p.m., and snow totals are now expected around 18 inches in most of the state, with up to 24 inches in the northwest corner.

Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said, "Everything is going exactly according to plan." That includes more than 500 plow trucks that started pretreating highwway Friday night and began clearing snow as the storm picked up. Of the plows, 155 are state trucks and 350 private vendors, Alviti said.

As of 9:30, 4 to 7 inches of snow had fallen, he said.

Alviti said only a handful of cars have been spotted on the highways. "There are literally no tractor trailers on our highways."

Gov. Dan McKee on Friday banned vehicles from the roadways.

Col. James Manni, superintendent of the state police, said that double the normal number of troopers are stationed near the borders, to intercept motorists who might enter from Massachusetts or Connecticut and direct them off the highways.

Manni said that troopers had dealth with 15 storm-related accidents overnight.

National Grid reported 75 current power outages as of 9:30, with another 75 outages that had already been restored. About 1,000 people had been activated on crews to address power issues, and the utility expects to wrap up those efforts within 72 hours.

Is shelter available in South County?

The American Red Cross in Rhode Island is opening a shelter at 7 p.m. at South Kingstown High School, 215 Columbia Street, Wakefield.

The shelter is available to all anyone who needs help.

The Red Cross has put supplies in place, but people should bring essential items, such as prescription medication, food that meets special dietary requirements, extra clothing, pillows and blankets, chargers for electronic devices and books or games.

Anyone who needs a safe place to go can find information for open Red Cross shelters on redcross.org, by calling 1 (800) 733-2767, or the free Red Cross Emergency app. Download the app by searching “American Red Cross” in your app store or by going to redcross.org/apps. You can also check with local officials and monitor local news for information on where to find emergency shelter.

More: The 5 best spots to take kids sledding in RI

More: Blizzard warning for RI: Storm may drop 18-24 inches of snow; travel could be 'impossible'

Turnpike and Bridge Authority closes all RI bridges

The Jamestown, Mt. Hope, Pell and Sakonnet River bridges are all closed, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority said Saturday morning.

Only emergency vehicles will be permitted to access the bridges.

More: Snowed in? Subscribers can read our e-edition online

Barrington morning.
Barrington morning.

What's happening at T.F. Green Airport?

T.F. Green Airport is showing widespread flight cancellations with Warwick getting snow, freezing fog and a north wind gusting up to 37 mph.

The airport's website shows more than 30 departures have been cancelled. It appears that the last flight got out at 12:50 a.m. A long list of cancelled departures runs from 5:23 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

More than 23 arrivals have been cancelled, starting at least as early as 1 a.m., according to the website.

Warwick had 4 inches of snow as of 6:30 a.m., according to reports to the Weather Servi

More: Does your town have a parking ban? Here's where to leave your car during a snowstorm in RI

More: Blizzard Updates: What to know so you are prepared for Saturday's blizzard

When will the Rhode Island travel ban end?

With whiteout conditions expected across much of the region, Gov. Dan McKee declared a state of emergency and said vehicles would be banned from Rhode Island roads from at least 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tractor-trailers will be banned from Rhode Island roads from 6 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority suspended bus service Saturday, until conditions are deemed safe for travel.

“It’s got the potential to be dangerous white-out conditions so the number one thing we can do is prepare now so we can stay home Saturday,” McKee said Friday morning during a visit to the Department of Transportation’s maintenance yard in East Providence, as workers loaded sand into trucks nearby.

Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who accompanied McKee to East Providence along with DOT director Peter Alviti, urged anyone in need of food, shelter or other essential resources to call the United Way of Rhode Island’s helpline at 211.

“This storm is very serious so make sure to take the precautions that you need to keep you and your family safe,” she said.

DOT Director Peter Alviti said that the snow is expected to fall at such a high rate, as much as a couple inches per hour, that snow plows won’t be able to clear it all immediately.

“The storm will be very intense very quickly,” he said. “So not only will be it difficult for our plow operators to see and do their job, but it’s going to be more difficult for people traveling on the roads.”

-Alex Kuffner

Are Catholics supposed to attend Mass this weekend?

Catholics in Rhode Island don't have to go to Mass this weekend because of the dangerous storm moving through the region, according to Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin.

"Due to the difficult, even dangerous weather and travel conditions expected this weekend, Catholics in the Diocese of Providence are hereby dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass this weekend," Tobin said on Twitter.

"Catholics are urged to stay home, stay safe and spend some time in prayer."

Can you help the National Weather Service gather snowfall reports?

The National Weather Service wants your help gathering snowfall totals.

"Calling all weather enthusiasts!" the Weather Service says in a Tweet. "Want to help us keep track of how much snow has fallen through the morning?"

Reports can be posted to its website here.

Getting accurate readings could be difficult, though, since high winds are likely to cause a lot of drifting.

Storm moves into RI, should bring near-record snowfall

A powerful nor'easter has moved into Southern New England and should leave near-record snowfall before winding down late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

With wind gusts building to 60 mph, the storm could also knock out power and flood the coast.

The storm track shifted to the west overnight. Rhode Island, which is under a blizzard warning, should get 18 to 24 inches.
The storm track shifted to the west overnight. Rhode Island, which is under a blizzard warning, should get 18 to 24 inches.

The "heaviest snow (near record snow possible) will occur across (Rhode Island) into the Worcester Hills, with 18-24" likely," the weather service says. In eastern Massachusetts 24 to 30 inches is likely.

Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., expect a "very heavy" snowfall rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour, the weather service says.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI Blizzard Live Updates: Forecasts, snowfall totals, and Mckee update