- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Parts of Rhode Island were buried under nearly 2 feet of snow by Tuesday afternoon as a nasty winter storm packing high winds forced the state to a standstill and blew over a Revolutionary War replica ship in Newport.

Schools, government offices and most businesses were closed, and a travel ban imposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo kept most cars off the road. Raimondo, who declared a state of emergency, is lifting the ban at 8 p.m. Tuesday as the storm tapers off.

But she urged Rhode Islanders to stay inside unless it’s absolutely necessary to drive, to give plows more time to clear the roads.

“We asked you to stay home and you did. We asked you to give a helping hand to your neighbors and you did,” she said. “Now let’s finish this off the right way. Stay at home just a little bit longer and we’re going to get you back to business as soon as we can.”

Raimondo said the state government will return to full operations Wednesday afternoon. She thanked Rhode Islanders for hunkering down.

Not everyone, though, hunkered.

Some residents had to venture out for work, or spent time beginning the slow process of digging themselves - and their cars - out of the fluffy snow. Others took walks to marvel at the storm and blow off some steam.



A blizzard warning for all of Rhode Island expires at 8 p.m. The worst of the storm lasted through Tuesday afternoon, bringing 15 to 25 inches of snow to many communities.

The National Weather Service said 2 feet of snow was reported in Glocester and 26½ inches in Burrillville. Well over a foot was recorded in several other communities, including Providence, which recorded 15 inches by Tuesday evening.

The snow and heavy winds caused power outages that briefly affected 2,200 National Grid customers Tuesday afternoon.



There were a handful of minor traffic accidents, and a DOT truck overturned but no one was injured, Raimondo said. Four hundred plows worked to clear the roadways. Flights were canceled out of T.F. Green Tuesday and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority stopped bus service. Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston.

Officials in communities including Providence and Woonsocket announced schools would be closed for a second day on Wednesday.



Rhode Island’s tall ship, the Continental Sloop Providence, was toppled by strong wind gusts. Owner and captain Thorpe Leeson said the 110-foot replica of a Revolutionary War vessel sustained extensive damage when it fell on its side overnight at the Newport Shipyard. It was stored there for the winter. The mast is broken and the hull is punctured, Leeson said. Extra supports were added as a precaution but they couldn’t sustain the heavy winds.

Leeson says it’s a sad day, but the ship will “come back to life.” He expects insurance to cover the damage and plans to get the ship in the water by the end of the summer.

The replica of the USS Providence is the state flagship and tall ship ambassador.



Jeff Yerkes had just a one-block commute, but it was still a challenge.

“It was rough. The snow drifts are really bad,” said Yerkes, who navigated 4-foot drifts and piles of snow left behind by plows to get to work at Eastside Mart, a convenience store in a residential area of Providence.

In Yerkes’ neighborhood, the stinging wind was so strong it made staying outside for too long difficult. The snow and constant wind meant he had to shovel three times between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.

He said Monday night was busy, with people buying milk and eggs. Tuesday has been quieter, but a few snow plow drivers had stopped in. One woman from the neighborhood stopped in as she walked to work.

“I gave her a free coffee and told her good luck,” he said.



At Wright’s Dairy Farm in North Smithfield, the cows need to be fed and cared for regardless of the weather.

“We have to make it work,” said co-owner Ellen Puccetti. “We had a couple of people stay overnight so we were ready to hit the ground running.”

They pulled the barn’s large curtains down so snow didn’t blow inside and covered calves with blankets. They fed, cleaned and milked the cows at 3 a.m., the same time they do every day. By midmorning, Puccetti said 12 to 14 inches of snow had fallen, but the power was still on. The farm’s store was closed Tuesday.



The owner of Providence’s Wayland Square Diner stayed at a local hotel with her cooks instead of going home to Woonsocket on Monday night so she could open the diner early Tuesday. They rode to work on a plow truck.

Michele Brunelle said she always opens during storms because plow truck drivers, police officers and doctors need a place to eat.

“They have to be out there working,” she said. “Normally, the worse the weather, the busier we are.”

On Tuesday’s menu, the diner offered pancakes shaped like snowmen and fruit-covered “blizzard waffles.”


McDermott reported from Warwick.

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