Town mobilizes as 'bomb cyclone' of a storm bears down on region

By Allan Stein

   While hoping for the best, Hull officials say the town is fully prepared for the worst snowstorm in decades – what weather forecasters are calling a “bomb cyclone.”
   With the mammoth storm expected to hit the East Coast in the early morning hours today (Jan. 4), the town is braced for a triple whammy of powerful winds, blizzard conditions, and pounding ocean waves as Winter Storm Grayson sweeps across the region. 
   Forecasters are predicting 8 to 12 inches of snow, with an arctic blast of subzero temperatures following the storm’s departure Thursday night.
   Robert Gilman, a professional meteorologist and member of Hull’s Beach Management Committee, said the intense storm will bring hurricane force winds topping 70 mph and tidal action driving sea ice in along with coastal floodwaters. 
   The impact of this unusual storm could prove especially damaging to beachfront properties, Gilman warned. “I haven’t seen a storm like this” — ever, he said.
   Hull officials say they’ve left nothing to chance.
   On Wednesday, School Superintendent Michael Devine canceled Thursday’s classes on the recommendation of Fire Chief Christopher Russo. Custodial staff is keeping the buildings warm around the clock so the pipes won’t freeze, Devine said.
   “This one we called early,” the superintendent said Wednesday morning. “Every forecast predicts we are going to get hammered.”
   Devine said the district sent out emails and texts alerting parents of the cancellation. If all goes as planned — and the storm is merciful — classes could resume in all three schools Friday, he said.
   “We are playing it by ear,” Devine said.
   Town Manager Philip Lemnios said Russo, the town’s emergency management director, has been coordinating storm preparedness ahead of the storm with his public safety officials.
   “Our staff is ready. We began preparing on Tuesday in the event of significant snowfall and flooding,” Lemnios said. “We are being advised to be the most concerned with high tide on Thursday at 12:41 p.m. We are likely to experience some minor [to] moderate flooding in the northeast and north-facing locations. Temporary road closures are likely.”
   All public works equipment is ready to be deployed “as needed,” Lemnios said. “We will pre-treat major roads with salt beginning late this evening [Wednesday]. Snow operations will begin early tomorrow morning.”
   The department has sufficient stockpiles of sand, salt, and fuel, he said.
   As a flooding precaution, the water level also has been lowered via the tide gate at Straits Pond. A Gunrock seawall contractor is addressing the work site in compliance with the town’s emergency plan, the town manager said.
   “We are prepared for several days of full-scale operations if the storm requires it,” Lemnios said. “If the forecast changes, we are prepared to adjust our plans to meet the conditions as necessary.”
   The town’s police, fire, and sewer departments are fully staffed and ready to respond, he said. In addition, Bay Street will be made one way temporarily to aid snow-removal efforts. The fire department’s Central, Green Hill, and Village fire substations will also be operating and fully staffed. 
   A Code Red reminder will be issued to residents reminding them of the winter parking bans that are in place. [To see the full list of parking restrictions, visit www.hullpolice.org.]
Lemnios said the DPW currently has eight plow/sanders and a sidewalk plow to cope with the storm. The town will hire eight to 10 contractors with various sized vehicles to assist, he said.
The Memorial Middle School will serve as an emergency operations and warming center for the duration of the storm. 
   "We will open a warming station at the Middle School if needed; the High School can also be added if necessary. Fire Chief Russo will determine if that is necessary,” Lemnios said.  
   The town manager said the estimated cost of the storm is $35,000 to $40,000 “depending on duration and supplies.”
   On Wednesday, the MBTA announced that all ferry service on Thursday had been cancelled due to the storm, including all service on the Hull to Boston route. 
   Hingham ferry service out of the Hingham Intermodal Facility was suspended Tuesday due to ice damage to the dock, and that disruption will continue for the foreseeable future. Many Hingham commuters use the Hull boat when service to our neighboring community is disrupted. 
   Lemnios said town officials have not seen a “huge demand” for commuter parking at the high school as a result of the Hingham closure. However, he said there has been an increase in passenger pickup and drop-off.

MBTA cancels commuter-boat service for Thursday

The MBTA this afternoon posted its anticipated service schedule in advance of a significant storm that's expected to arrive tonight. Unlike during the "great" Blizzard of 1978, Hull's commuter-boat service will not run tomorrow. 

Longtime veterans of Hull's water transport system are fond of bragging how they survived the boat run from Boston to Hull during the February 1978 snowstorm by which all successor blizzards have been measured.

Back then, the service was run by a private company. Now it's operated by the MBTA and, for better or worse, those  who make the decision whether the boat ought to run are far more circumspect.

Here's the MBTA's press release released this afternoon:

 In advance of tomorrow’s severe winter weather event, the MBTA has announced its service schedule for Thursday, January 4.

According to the National Weather Service, approximately 8 to 12 inches of snow are expected across the MBTA system tomorrow with sustained winds of 35 mph and more and gusts as high as 65 mph in some areas.

The MBTA will operate regular weekday service on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines. The Mattapan Trolley Line will be replaced with dedicated shuttle buses, servicing all stations. As delays and other service changes may occur, customers are urged to connect with the MBTA by visiting the MBTA websitesigning up for and checking T-Alerts, downloading the Transit app, and following the T on Twitter @MBTA as well as the commuter rail at @MBTA_CR.

Regular bus service will operate, though delays may occur and buses that have “Snow Routes” will operate on their designated Snow Route. To find a list of buses with Snow Routes, customers are urged to visit www.mbta.com/winter.

The MBTA Commuter Rail will operate a reduced schedule in which some trains will not operate. Online schedules and schedules available within the commuter rail app will be updated to only show trains that operate during a reduced schedule. Trains shaded in yellow on printed schedules will not operate. Express trains may make local stops as necessary.

Ferry services will not operate on Thursday, January 4.

Since 2015, the MBTA has invested over $100 million to harden vehicles and core infrastructure including track, switches, power systems, and signals; developed a multidisciplinary approach when responding to disruptions in service using teams with the skillsets, materials, and equipment to address a wide variety of potential issues and scenarios; and contracted with vendors for snow clearing along key bus routes and T facility/employee parking, freeing up T personnel to concentrate on core system functions.

Emergency crews comprised of multiple disciplines are on standby to respond to instances of broken rail, issues affecting the power systems, and potential switch problems. These teams are staffed and equipped to respond to a range of issues in order to expedite repairs. Power crews will continue to inspect overhead wires on the Blue and Green Lines, looking for ice buildup. Ice cutters have been installed on vehicles to remove ice buildup on catenary wires on the Blue and Green Lines. Overnight, trains will be stored in tunnels to protect against sustained sub-freezing temperatures; trains that cannot be stored overnight will be exercised to prevent or detect icing up of doors, brakes, and propulsion systems.