State of Emergency; road travel banned after midnight

Governor warns that this could be a "Top Five" storm for Massachusetts

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Preparing for what he described as a “top five” blizzard and his first as governor, Gov. Charlie Baker early Monday afternoon declared a state of emergency and announced plans to impose a statewide travel ban for all non-emergency vehicles starting at midnight.

“We are anticipating an historic top five storm,” Baker said during a news conference at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency emergency bunker in Framingham, where the governor plans to be stationed for the bulk of the storm.

Baker described a blizzard bearing down Massachusetts that has been forecasted to dump two to three feet of snow in many areas of the state with wind gusts expected to eclipse 75 miles per hour in some regions and sustained winds of 50 to 60 miles per hour.

The governor cautioned that wet snow and high winds, particularly in Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties, could cause power outages for hundreds of thousands of residents that may last for days as utilities work through extreme conditions to restore power.

State government offices will be closed on Tuesday, as will all public MBTA transportation. The state plans to open the MBTA and state offices on Wednesday, but Baker said he will reevaluate on Tuesday.

“Driving will be virtually impossible in many areas for extended periods of time starting late tonight and through much of tomorrow. I urge everyone except essential medical, emergency and transportation workers to stay off the roads until the snow has passed,” Baker said. “I can’t stress this part enough, Please stay off the roads,” he implored.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced that a parking ban in the city of Boston would go into effect at 6 p.m., and cars still on the street at 8 p.m. would be towed.

“You should not be driving in the city of Boston,” Walsh said. The mayor also announced that schools would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The travel ban, similar to one imposed by former Gov. Deval Patrick two years ago, will carry a fine of up to $500 for violators, but State Police Col. Timothy Alben said he hoped not to get into a situation where it would have to be enforced. Acknowledging the criticism that Patrick received from some for implementing a travel ban, Baker said he “wrestled” with the decision.

“I view the travel ban as absolutely a last resort,” he said.

The governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut have also implemented travel bans in their states, with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo ordering cars off the roads at midnight, and Gov. Dan Malloy imposing a ban starting at 9 p.m. Baker declared a state of emergency immediately, and indicated that he had called up 500 members of the National Guard on Sunday night to begin staging to assist with storm clean up.

Coastal areas have been advised of the potential for severe coastal flooding, with high tides set to occur at 4 a.m. during what Baker described as the “peak” of the storm.

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