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Days after Nemo, Mass. reflects on cleanup efforts

Although the clean-up process has taken a while, Boston agencies are happy with the progress. PHOTO BY SARAH FISHER/ DAILY FREE PRESS
Although the clean-up process has taken a while, Boston agencies are happy with the progress. PHOTO BY SARAH FISHER/ DAILY FREE PRESS

Days after the Winter Storm Nemo hit the Northeast, the City of Boston continues to clean up the aftermath.

“We are still in the cleanup process,” said Michael Verseckes, spokesman for Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “We got a lot of the snow melted, but overnight the temperatures dropped and froze the water again. We’re not out of it [the cleanup process] just yet.”

Winter Storm Nemo hit Boston Friday and continued until Saturday, leaving behind about 24.9 inches of snow to the area, making Nemo the fifth largest snowstorm ever to hit Boston.

Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick called for utilities to look into the cost to put power lines underground on Monday after the snowstorm left more than 400,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shut down services Friday at about 3:30 p.m. and resumed normal schedules Monday morning.

Joe Pesaturo, MBTA spokesperson, said in an email the MBTA would not have been operational without the help from employees who worked around the clock.

“Despite a blizzard that crippled the area this [past] weekend, America’s oldest subway came back fully operational [Monday] morning, providing safe and reliable service to tens of thousands of customers,” he said. “While there were some minor delays, there were no significant service interruptions.”

Pesaturo said the MBTA’s pre-storm strategy worked well, but exposing T cars to the weather had some negative effects.

“Exposing the T’s aging subway cars and trolleys to heavy snow and ice for sustained periods of time has a detrimental effect, and makes it more difficult to get the vehicles back into service in a timely manner,” he said. “In this case, however, the subway system performed very well, and protecting the aging fleet had a lot to do with that success.”

Peter Judge, public information officer of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the Commonwealth had time to prepare before the storm hit, which made the cleanup process easier.

“We had the luxury of time to go through our preparation drills ahead of time,” he said. “We do all hazards training and although we haven’t been through this type of event in a while, we took our practices from previous disasters and put them to use here.”

Judge said 90 percent of things MEMA did for the storm would be routine for other natural disasters, such as cleaning up debris, setting up shelters and getting generators for local communities.

Judge said Deval’s road ban was a significant help for the cleanup process.

“Form our perspective, it [the ban] paid huge dividends,” he said. “It took people off the roads and made room for the cleanup crew to do their job. It allowed the plows to stay with the storm and get the major roads up and running. “

Overall, the emergency response to the storm went well, Judge said.

“We will have a number of weeks to have an after-action meeting, where everyone will look at what we did and find ways to tweak it,” he said. “As of right now, there is nothing major that was a huge problem.”

Verseckes said MassDOT’s plan for cleaning up the storm worked well.

“Having other vehicles for plowing was an enormous benefit. We called upon 4,000 contractors statewide to help with clearing the roads,” he said.

Clearing most of the snow is a challenge and needs a lot of people power to get it done, Verseckes said.

“Things worked really well. We will go back and look at our procedures and look at what can be done differently or changed for next time,” he said.

Some people said they were content with the quickness of the cleanup.

“The city did a great job,” said Marcella Cuadra, 31, a resident of Newton Highlands. “Within 24 hours after the storm stopped, the roads were clean.”

Other people said the city could have done a better job at getting the snow off the road.

“The way they paved the road made it almost impossible to cross the road,” said Rosa Huang, a resident of Allston.

Huang said many of the sidewalks had large snowbanks that prevented her from crossing the street.

“You can’t jump over them [the snow banks],” she said. “There could have been a better way to move the snow.”

Andrew Pinto, 21, a resident of Allston and student at Suffolk University, also said a lot of the sidewalks were not cleaned off in an efficient manner.

“Commuting was a pain and I wish I could say nice things that the city did right, but I just can’t,” he said.

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