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A wintery wallop; Slipping, sliding, digging, shivering.

Byline: Kim Ring

The thick coating of white snow made Hope Cemetery seem more quiet than usual Friday afternoon.

The roads there were mostly plowed, though there was nary a car in sight. Sometimes a violent wind whipped up, forming gullies around the tombstones and sculpting the dry, fluffy snow into swirling patterns like beach sands or desert dunes.

At the top of a hill, a fleck of color amid the white and gray turned out to be the jackets of Kelly Lainey and her 15-year-old daughter, Alexandria, preparing for another sledding run down a steep hill in the Jewish section of the cemetery. The thin skim of snow left by the plows was enough to give them a good ride.

"We like it here, it's quiet,'' Ms. Lainey said, adding that she's enjoyed the few extra days the storm allowed her with her daughter, a student at South High.

The two, with their cheeks beyond rosy, took a final run and called it a day after about an hour in the bitter cold.

It was a toss-up on Worcester streets as to which was worse: the cold or the snow.

Worcester DPW worker Joseph Daboul, at first glance, seemed to have the worst part of trash pickup: riding on the back and, with frozen hands, grabbing the yellow bags and tossing them into the truck.

Robert Clouthier was driving, tucked into the cab where it was much warmer.

"It's worse driving,'' he said. "I'd rather be on the back. The roads are bad.''

Trash pickup in Worcester was a day later and two hours short due first to the New Year's holiday and then to a delay because of the weather.

While the snow sometimes raises tensions and can be a catalyst for incidents that require police to straighten out, those were few and far between in the outlying towns.

"It was pretty quiet,'' Spencer Police Chief David B. Darrin said. "People stayed home and allowed the Highway Department to get the roads cleared.''

Chief Darrin said the pre-storm hype was probably worse than the weather in the end, at least in Central Massachusetts, and he wonders if there's a reason for that.

"Naming the storms seems to be charging up the interest in them,'' Chief Darrin said. The storm which dropped snow for about 36 hours was called Hercules.

It prompted the closing of schools, some stores and governmental agencies including the courts, which meant anyone who couldn't make bail after being arrested Thursday night will spend an additional two days in a police station lockup and be arraigned Monday.

Some folks seemed to be in a generous frame of mind despite skidding along, rooster tails of snow spraying from their spinning tires.

At a red light on Main Street in Worcester, a motorist appeared to let a panhandler sit in her vehicle for a few minutes to warm up. He got out when the light turned red and held up his small cardboard sign as cars passed.

A few blocks away, a passenger jumped out of an SUV and closed the gas cap on a nearby car. Others shoveled out neighbors and pushed cars stuck in snowbanks until they were freed.

Officials are hoping the kindnesses continue with bitter cold bearing down and presenting a new set of problems.

As the snowfall ended and road-clearing operations from the season's first Nor'easter continued Friday, Gov. Deval L. Patrick turned to concerns about extreme cold, warning the public to take precautions against below-zero temperatures expected overnight.

At a press conference from the state's emergency bunker in Framingham, the governor thanked the public for staying off the roads Thursday night which he said aided in snow-clearing operations.

He said the extreme cold expected overnight Friday also calls for people to be aware of the impact of frigid temperatures on old people, children and pets. If people see homeless people in danger from the cold, he said, they should call 911.

The governor, who let state workers go home early Thursday and closed state offices for Friday, said forecasted rain Sunday night could add weight to snow piled on homes and decks and recommended they be cleared of snow before then, if it can be done safely.

Mr. Patrick also told residents to clear snow from heater and clothes dryer vents on the outside of homes to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and asked the public's help in clearing fire hydrants and street storm drains before the rain.

The cold, so far, hasn't set any records but it's the coldest Jan. 3 most of us have weathered with the record, -3 degrees, having been set in 1904. Worcester got to 7 degrees at 1 p.m. Friday, 3 degrees higher than during the record-setting day more than a century ago.

As for snow, there were no records set. The National Weather Service reported the following storm totals as of 11 a.m. Friday: Shrewsbury, 12.5 inches; Worcester, 10.3 inches; Milford, 9.5 inches; Templeton and Berlin, 8.1 inches; Auburn, 8 inches; Lancaster, Ashburnham and Hubbardston, 7 inches; Leominster, 6.5 inches; Brookfield. Westboro and Gardner, 6 inches; Northbridge, 5.5 inches; Royalston, 5.1 inches; and Southbridge, 5.1 inches.

Communities north of Boston got hit hard. Boxford registered 23.8 inches, according to the weather service.

William Babcock, National Weather Service meteorologist, said the totals are for the two-day storm.

The differential in snow totals for neighboring communities, such as Shrewsbury and Westboro, could be because of where in the communities the snow was measured. The tallies are submitted to the weather service by weather spotters. Mr. Babcock said the way he recommends weather spotters measure snow is to take a number of readings in the same, unobstructed areas and then average the readings.

Worcester fell short of breaking record snowfall for either Jan. 2 or Jan. 3. The record snowfall for Jan. 2 was set in 1987 with 12.5 inches of snow, and the record snowfall for Jan. 3 was set in 1996 with 11 inches.

For this storm, Worcester got 6.2 inches on Thursday and another 4.1 inches Friday.

Some weather-related problems are still expected. Firefighters in Worcester responded to a few reports of broken water pipes on Friday and there could be more.

Worcester Deputy Fire Chief Geoffrey Gardell said Friday he was expecting more buildings with water issues after the extreme cold set in at night, and then warmer air follows this weekend.

"I'm sure we're going to get a big influx,'' Chief Gardell said.

Another storm is heading up the coast, but it is tracking further west, according to Mr. Babcock. He said the new storm was going to bring some warming to the region, and rain this weekend.

"It's New England,'' Mr. Babcock said. "What can I say?''

Contact Kim Ring at Follow her on Twitter @kimmring. Linda Bock and John Monahan contributed to this story.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Ring, Kim
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 4, 2014
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