SCITUATE, Mass. (AP) — Tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents were without electricity Monday in the aftermath of a fierce weekend blizzard, and one utility came under criticism for leaving customers in the dark about when their power might come back.
Residents around the state who returned to work and other daily activities for the first time since the storm crawled along narrow snow-covered secondary roads and were greeted by a mix of sleet and freezing rain. Boston announced that it would keep schools closed again Tuesday, as did many other school districts.
The storm dropped up to 30 inches of snow in some parts of the state and lashed the coast with hurricane-force wind gusts and a damaging storm surge.
U.S. Rep. William Keating, who represents Cape Cod and South Shore communities, said constituents were frustrated by what they viewed as a lack of communication from NStar. He claimed the utility failed to share information about its timetable for power restoration, other than to say it would take several days.
Keating, who's been without power in his own Bourne home since Friday, praised the line crews, who he said were doing "hard work in bad weather," but said residents, including those who were considering leaving their homes for shelters, were only looking for some idea of when repairs might be made.
"They are making very difficult decisions about what to do for their safety and for their family," Keating said.
NStar spokesman Mike Durand said the utility has been getting generally positive comments on its communications, but it will take a look after the storm to review their procedures.
"The feedback we've been getting by and large from the communities is that the communications have been working quite well," he said. "We understand there is always room for improvement."
NStar was reporting 34,440 outages early Tuesday. National Grid said 11,687 of its customers were without power. Outages were at about 100,000 on Monday.
About 50 people remained at a shelter set up at Scituate High School, as much of that town was still in the dark. Ann and Richard Brown, married 65 years, spent the last three nights sleeping on side-by-side cots at the shelter. By Monday afternoon, they were missing the comforts of home.
"It's disrupting when you're older," said Ann Brown, 88. "You've got to be careful to keep your spirits up."
By contrast, Jim and Brenda Stewart decided to remain in their darkened Marshfield home where the only source of heat was their fireplace.
"When you're a New Englander, you kind of hunker down and just do it," said Brenda Stewart, a nurse.
Her husband, who is self-employed but unable to work because he doesn't have an Internet connection, described three days without power as being "somewhere between miserable and OK."
"I think if it goes on too much longer it might slide into miserable," he added.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who visited some of the hardest-hit communities on Monday, including Scituate and Marshfield, said it was too early to assess the overall response by the utilities to the storm.
"If you're without power, it's not going fast enough," he added.
Traveling remained a challenge, as many secondary roads still had a thick coating of snow and high snow banks blocked sight lines at intersections and near highway ramps, making turning and merging hazardous.
With a parking ban still in effect in Boston, garages quickly became full and many downtown streets were choked with traffic. Streets that ordinarily had two lanes were shrunk to one because of snow piled on each side, and the rain created a slushy mess for pedestrians.
"It was definitely a struggle to get here," said Dana Osterling, 24, who lives in Leverett in western Massachusetts and commutes to Boston twice a week to attend Berklee College of Music.
"I live on a dirt road so the plows don't visit us very often," she said at a service plaza in Natick on the Massachusetts Turnpike. She and her six housemates shoveled for about three hours to free their cars Sunday.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which shut down all service at the height of the storm, reported some delays related to weather and signal problems but no major interruptions, on Monday.
"America's oldest subway was fully operational this morning, providing safe and reliable service to tens of thousands of customers," said Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the transit system.
Salsberg reported from Natick, Mass.