Monthly Archives: January 2011

Here We Snow Again

Published January 31, 2011

Remember when snow was charming? Man, those were the days.

A two-parter is coming Tuesday morning. Snow will start in the morning but get heavier in the afternoon. Expect accumulation of 3 to 6 inches and highs in the mid 20s.

After a break, the storm is expected to resume Tuesday night and start dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain through Wednesday afternoon. Expect a foot or more. Altogether, some parts of the state, especially in the north-central area, could get up to 21 inches. By the time this thing has passed, Boston will have received more than seven feet of snow this season.

…And Boston has barely even dug out of the last storm.

Snow emergencies declared:

  • Somerville, 10 p.m. Monday. Park on the odd-numbered side of the street.
  • Boston, 9 a.m. Tuesday. Alternate parking is available at 7 a.m.
  • Brookline, 8 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Boston University, 5 p.m. Tuesday

Monday Morning: Brown’s War Chest

Published January 31, 2011

Good Monday morning! Enjoy the sunshine. A 48-hour storm is on its way tomorrow.

Scott Brown might have a primary challenger next year — not to mention a strong Democratic challenger — but the junior senator has plenty of cash. The Herald reports Brown’s war chest now exceeds $7 million. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), a possible 2012 opponent, has about $168,000 on hand. “No one is unbeatable, but he’s going to be tough to beat,” Capuano told the Herald.

Speaking of the Herald, it’s getting smaller — the dead-tree version, that is. WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reports the tabloid is shaving pages from its business and lifestyle sections, as advertising revenue and circulation fall.

WBUR opens a series about mental health care for children with the story of Will, a 17-year-old who says he was overmedicated. “They would just leave kids lying in bed. That was the most terrible experience, seeing little kids scream while they put syringes up their a–. It’s disgusting. It’s horrible.”

What ya gonna do with all that snow, all that snow inside yo’ plow? In Boston, we just move it around. Ex-CEO Paul Levy suggests we dump it in the Harbor. Environmentalists are queasy about the chemicals.

Report Unshoveled Sidewalks, Blocked Hydrants

Published January 28, 2011

[googlemap title=”User-Submitted Snow Reports” height=”500″],-71.082916&spn=0.311556,0.727158&z=11[/googlemap]

This map is in beta! Please report errors in the comments. Update, 1/31: We stopped accepting submissions at 6 p.m. There are 200 pins on the map. Update, 1/30: I’m working hard to update this map with all of your submissions. It is a technical challenge because the data comes from multiple sources. Thanks for your patience with our experiment. Update, 1/29: Added Mayor’s Hotline data.

The city of Boston is inundated with reports of un-shoveled sidewalks and other snow violations, less than 24 hours after the snow emergency ended.

“We’ve had about 2,400 complaints come in just in the month of January, which is 1,100 more complaints than we’ve ever received in our highest month in the history of code enforcement,” said Michael Mackan, the city’s chief of code enforcement.

This is where you come in. We’re mapping the problem spots, block by block. If you see an unshoveled sidewalk, inaccessible bus stop, blocked hydrant or other problem, report it.

There are four ways to report:

  • Mobile: Text the word WALK to 698-66 and follow the instructions
  • iPhone: Tap “Assignments” in our iPhone app.
  • Twitter: Use the hash tag #BigDigOut. Include the location and a photo.
  • Web: Fill out this form.

We’re looking for reports in Greater Boston where snow removal is required under local law.

Related Links:

Friday Morning: 51 Days Till Spring

Published January 28, 2011

Good morning! Sick of the white sludge yet? Well, it’s going to (literally) stick around… forever. Expect another inch of it Saturday and a big storm next week. Temps won’t rise above 30 for the foreseeable future.

WBUR’s David Boeri reports on the woes of winter-weary Somervillians. “The snowbanks run five- to six-feet high of dung-colored snow and ice, discarded Christmas trees and trash barrels lapped by lakes of brine and slush salty enough to pickle herring.” It’s a must-listen story.

Encouraging new numbers on the economy today. The economy grew briskly in the 2010 fourth quarter, an annual rate of 3.2 percent, the Commerce Department reported. Here in Boston, the world’s top economists are gathering at MIT. WBUR’s Curt Nickisch was in the room.

Some rare good news about Boston’s homeless population: It’s down. That’s the finding of the annual homeless census, which WBUR’s Benjamin Swasey participated in last December.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s state budget roundup, Gov. Deval Patrick proposes to close two prisons. The Globe reports details of that plan are vague, but as WBUR’s Fred Thys reports, Patrick is already getting praise.

Finally, the New York Times reports on the progress (or lack thereof) of ROTC returning to college campuses, now that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is repealed. Harvard President Drew Faust has said the group would be allowed back on campus after a longtime ban. A law professor and military observer told the Times: “I would be the most surprised person in the world if the military came back to Harvard or Yale.”

For Sublet: Igloo, Unfurnished, Available Till Spring

Published January 28, 2011

Spotted on Cambridge Common while walking to work this morning. Perhaps it is a model snowme, or a snowmeless shelter?

Igloo on Cambridge Common (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

Igloo on Cambridge Common (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

What do you see on your morning commute? E-mail your photos to or tweet them and mention @andrewphelps.

Update: The power of Twitter never ceases to amaze me. Not more than an hour after I snapped the photo, the igloo builder’s wife (@sweetamandine) replied to thank me. The igloo builder is Eli Schleifer of Cambridge.

Why Can’t Boston Have Nice Things?

Published January 27, 2011

From my co-worker, WBUR’s David Kenney, who experienced this himself on a trip to Norway:

The run takes about 10 minutes total. At the bottom there is a T station where you jump on a train that takes you back to the top — to go again.

The toboggan run is only 25 minutes by T from downtown Oslo.

Someone else captured the experience on video (note, there is a cuss word at the end):

[youtube url=”eYbERJyZ9E8″]

Maybe they could close Beacon Street on snow days for sledding?

Rather Than Pray For Snow Days, He Predicts Them

Published January 27, 2011

Used to be kids would sit around the radio, listening, praying for snow days. Then the Internet came along and took all the charm out of it.

"Day" written in snow

Snow day (Colin Purrington/Flickr)

And then 16-year-old David Sukhin came along and took all the waiting out of it. He invented a way to predict snow days with wicked accuracy.

One day in sixth grade, Sukhin said, he dreamed up an algorithm that would predict the likelihood of his school district cancelling classes.

He built Snow Day Calculator, a website that lets users plug in data about their location and school district. The rest is magic.

Now Sukhin (SOO-kin) is in 11th grade, in Watchung, N.J., and he uses his own website every time a storm is coming.

“I’m always nervous, every time I read the prediction and I look at the weather myself. I’m always nervous if it’s going to be right,” he told me on the phone today.

But Sukhin said it has never been wrong for him. Ever.

Sukhin is smart, so he won’t reveal his secret formula, but he offered some insight in an e-mail:

The calculator digests hour by hour information from and extracts what time the storm will start, the time it will end, the probability of precipitation, and the average strength (inches per hour) of the storm.

Using that information it calculates the amount of inches expected to give a raw prediction. Then, accounting for things like snow removal, salting and when schools usually begin, it adds or subtracts from the chance. The amount it subtracts is based on the value from a mathematical curve for each factor. I tried to make curves that correctly simulate how the roads are and how schools react based on these factors. After averaging all the information together, out comes the prediction.

The user is also asked enter subjective data, such as a school district’s leniency and a numerical rating for the storm’s “hype.” But those numbers are really meant to nudge a borderline result, he said.

Sukhin said he spends a lot of his free time during winter reading user feedback and tweaking the interface. But the formula hasn’t changed since sixth grade.

Oh, and I was able to reach Sukhin at home because it’s a snow day for him, too. Central New Jersey got a foot of snow last night. And yes, his calculator was right.

Related Links:

Press Release Of The Day: Even Lenny Can’t Save Him

Published January 27, 2011

In the midst of last night’s snowstorm, state troopers arrested Tyler Bryan, a 25-year-old cab driver from East Somerville, on charges of drunken driving.

Police said they responded to a report of a car struck at 5:20 a.m. on Soldiers Field Road, near Leo Birmingham Parkway. They arrived to find a taxicab stuck in a snow bank, engine running, with Bryan looking very drunk. A trooper could smell alcohol.

Bryan was belligerent, police said, and insisted that comedians and Bay State natives Lenny Clarke and Denis Leary would come to his aide.

Now, drunken driving is not funny. (A drunk driver once sideswiped me and totalled my car. Drunken driving killed a high-school classmate.) But the details from the state police press release… well, you can’t make this stuff up.

Once inside the State Police cruiser BRYAN began to curse and make belligerent and nonsensical statements. He swore at the trooper, and said, initially, that he had been walking, not driving, and then claimed falsely that he had been in the passenger seat of the cab, not the driver’s seat.

BRYAN cursed during the entire ride to the Brighton State Police Barracks, and once inside became more belligerent. Told again that he was under arrest, he said he was not and was going home. He then said several times that he had been driving a snowmobile or that he had crashed into a snowmobile.

BRYAN refused to cooperate with the booking process. He insisted that he was not under arrest, and then said repeatedly that Lenny Clark [sic] and Denis Leary were going to get him out of trouble and take care of him. BRYAN also slurred the word “LLLLEEEEENNNNNYYYYY” – taking about 15 seconds to drag the name out each time — over and over.

Troopers had to hold BRYAN up at points during the booking process, as he insisted, all the while, that he was not under arrest. At one point, BRYAN put his fingers in his ears and stated, in a sing-song voice, that he could not hear the trooper who was booking him.

Bryan was also charged with refusing to identify himself to authorities. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Brighton.

Patrick’s ‘Painful’ Budget: Who’s Getting Cut?

Published January 27, 2011

Gov. Deval Patrick has unveiled a new budget that would cut local aid, state police, public defenders and counseling for job seekers. The 2012 budget calls for $570 million in cuts — the deepest cuts in 20 years, the administration said.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday (AP)

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday (AP)

The biggest victim is a program that provides emergency shelters for homeless families. As WBUR’s Fred Thys reports, some advocates for the homeless are OK with that. Patrick also proposes to increase the budget for long-term housing.

Everyone gets hit, the Globe reports. Even a bottle of Gatorade would cost an extra nickel.

The Herald notes Patrick’s budget would hike up car insurance and prescription drug co-pays. The plan would close two state prisons.

Patrick says he can save $1 billion on Medicaid (health care for poor people) by renegotiating state contracts with providers. Advocate Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation doesn’t think that’s doable, though.

Patrick is proposing to boost funding for K-12 education and programs that combat youth violence. He is also touting business-friendly tax cuts and capital investments.

Now it’s up to the Legislature to draft its own budget and quarrel with the governor over details. The 2012 fiscal year begins July 1.

Update: Reporter S.P. Sullivan at has a comprehensive budget roundup.

Live Coverage From Storm Team 90.9

Published January 26, 2011

Another Nor’easter is coming. You know the drill: Move ya cah, stay off the roads, shovel ya sidewalks, etc. Newest information on top; refresh for updates.


5:12 p.m.: A final link to close out the live blog: Mark Lecesse tells us which meteorologist got the storm most right. Hint: NECN’s Matt Noyes.

11:00: BOS-NYC Amtrak service is back.

10:23: Excellent advice from CommonHealth: 10 Tips To Protect Your Back While Shoveling

10:11: Somerville resident Kevin Andrews has amassed an impressive mountain of snow:

Kevin Andrew adds to the pile of snow on his front yard as he clears his driveway in Somerville on Thursday morning. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Kevin Andrew adds to the pile of snow on his front yard as he clears his driveway in Somerville on Thursday morning. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

9:53: Here is the latest from the newsroom on those men rescued safely in Lynn:

Fire authorities blame heavy snowfall for the roof collapse at a parking garage early this morning.

Two shuttle bus drivers for a senior-services agency were trapped inside the garage for a couple of hours.

Deputy Fire Chief James MacDonald said his rescue team had to saw through steel beams and corrugated metal to get to the men. MacDonald said he is worried this type of accident could happen again.

“We’ve had a lot of snow, we’re going to get more. Buildings like this don’t get shoveled off. We’re just at the mercy of the construction of buildings that people are working in,” he said.

The men did not appear to be hurt. They were taken to Mass. General Hospital as a precaution.

9:30: From blogger Garrett Quinn: “More snow, more cold. It’s still not 1978 no matter how much people want it to be. The end.”

9:25: Here’s the view from my window in Cambridge. Looks like the trucks who plow the back parking lot are still sleeping.

View from my window, Cambridge

View from my window, Cambridge (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

9:17: With the storm all but wrapped up, Boston has received some 62 inches of snow — almost a full Smoot, or about 0.7 Shaqs. Normally for this time of season, the total snowfall is about 19 inches.

8:44: Two people were rescued from the roof collapse in Lynn.

8:41: Guess what? More snow is forecast for Saturday — but it’s not supposed to stick.

8:37: Brookline Schools are closed.

8:35. How much of the white stuff came down? Boston got about one foot. Some areas got as much as 15 inches. Cape Cod got about 8 inches. “It came down fast and furious overnight,” said Channel 5 meteorologist Mike Wankum.

8:31: Power outages were relatively few, said Peter Judge, head of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. He said 1,400 homes are without power, mostly in Plymouth County, down from  5,700 at the peak. Despite coastal flood warnings, there is no serious flooding.

Judge said the state’s highways look clear.

8:25: Except on parts of the Cape, the storm has passed.

8:22 The MBTA website is down, but @mbtaGM is a great resource on Twitter.

8:20: In terms of travel… A Green “D” Line train derailed at Reservoir Station. No one was hurt, and passengers are being bused.

MBTA General Manager Richard Davey: “I would say the system is running with minor, if any delays. With commuter rail, I would ask customers to be mindful that they should expect five to 15-minute delays.”

Davey said there are about 30-minute delays on the Franklin Line. High-speed Red Line service in Mattapan is suspended. Amtrak trains between Boston and New York are suspended.

One runway is open at Logan. A second runway is expected to open by 9 a.m. Some arrivals have come in since the worst of the storm ended, but flights are not expected to return to normal until Friday afternoon.

8:14: The heavy snow caused a roof to to collapse at a parking garage in Lynn, trapping two people inside. Officials are concerned about the structural integrity of the building, which is complicating rescue efforts. Rescuers are in contact with the two people over cell phone. The Globe has more.

Thursday, 8:08 a.m. WCVB has the complete list of school closures and delays.

7:29: Boston Public Schools are closed Thursday. (There was some confusion about this while the BPS site is down.)

7:10: Parking bans are in effect in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington. Watertown ban starts at 9. In Somerville, parking is permitted on the odd-numbered side of the street.

7:05: You’re getting towed right now.

5:05: Effective 1 a.m., the entire Massachusetts coastline is under a flood warning.

4:59: Wow, Boston has received more than 50 inches of snow since Dec. 22.

4:48 p.m., Snow is already dusting some areas, including here at Boston University, and is expected to get heavier this evening. An emergency parking ban begins at 7 p.m. in Boston. A winter storm warning lasts till 10 a.m. Thursday.

Snowfall will be heavy at times, falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches an hour, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Total accumulation could be 6-10 inches. Temps in the low 20s.

The snow should end in the middle of the morning commute.