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No stranger to snow, Boston struggles to weather a relentless string of storms

Cold, snowy winters are well-known to Bostonians. But this year, there's been so much snow, coming so fast and with no end in sight. Since the end of January, the city has received almost 100 inches, with no thaws and now no place to put more of it. Special correspondent Emily Rooney of WGBH reports on the messy trouble it’s caused.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    If it's possible for an entire major metropolitan city to be under the weather, Boston fits the bill this winter. The latest round of snowfall dumped on New England has shuttered schools, stalled mass transit, and smothered an entire region. And, yes, the forecast calls for more snow this weekend.

    Emily Rooney of public broadcaster WGBH looks at how tough New Englanders are coping with the present and preparing for the future.

  • EMILY ROONEY, WGBH News, Boston:

    The storms have all had different names, Juno, Kari, Linus, Marcus, Neptune, and Octavia, but they all look the same to us.

    It's not that we aren't used to snow in Boston. We are. It's just that there's been so much coming so fast with no end in sight. During torrential winter downpours, New Englanders like to say, imagine if this was snow. This winter, we have been robbed of our imagination.

    Since January 27, Bostonians have weathered a relentless string of storms, dumping almost 100 inches in total, and with no thaws in between, it's layer upon layer, pile upon pile.

  • WOMAN:

    When it snows like this, where are you going to put the snow?

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    There's been an on-street parking ban in effect on and off for three weeks, but in Boston, a ban on parking doesn't necessarily mean much. Crowded brownstone neighborhoods are exempt. You can keep your own car in your own private igloo for as long as you want.

  • CANDACE CUMMINGS:

    Everywhere you look, there are just mountains. And, sometimes, you say, is there a car underneath that?

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    Candace Cummings admits she didn't dig out the spot where her car is currently parked, but says she does her part.

  • CANDACE CUMMINGS:

    With the limited parking in the South End, doing just like five minutes of shoveling helps everyone who is going to need parking down the line.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    And just down the street, David Breckley is helping out a neighbor whose car has been socked in for more than three weeks.

    What's your plan of attack here? Are you going to get through this?

  • DAVID BRECKLEY:

    Hopefully cutting across here, and if I can get some of it over there just to make a pathway.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    This phone keeps going off, so somebody else wants to have him get their car out.

  • DAVID BRECKLEY:

    Yes.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    But not everyone is so friendly. According to a time-honored practice in some neighborhoods, you shovel it, you own it, at least for now, with a red cone, a lawn chair, or something more creative marking your spot.

    Boston's South End is trying to ban space savers. Tell that to the owners of two cars who had their tires slashed for parking in a spot someone else had shoveled out. And here's a note to another neighbor who disregarded the space saver. "You are an idiot," it begins.

    So why would anyone try to drive in this? Simple answer, they have to. Despite efforts to keep the rails clear, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, or simply the T, was forced to shut down and is still running on a limited schedule. MBTA officials now say it could be up to a month before the system is back to normal.

  • MAYOR MARTY WALSH, Boston:

    It's going to be a while before people see what you want to see out in the community.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has also been on defense, under fire for letting the snow pile up before asking for the National Guard and for not getting snow melters on the road sooner. And then there was that little matter of a Super Bowl celebration, a parade scheduled for a Wednesday, just two days after a two-foot snow dump. Residents say their neighborhood suffered while the parade route was cleared.

  • WOMAN:

    They are definitely doing that. All the alleys are closed.

  • MAN:

    Well, they're not around here.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    Already, Boston public schools have closed eight times, forcing the city to cancel upcoming school holidays and possibly one school vacation week. And the trial of accused marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been also been delayed. Even the wheels of justice turn slower in the snow.

    Then there's the very real threat of roof collapses. Public safety officials are warning people to clear their roofs, as dozens of homes and businesses have caved in under thousands of pounds of snow.

  • MAN:

    I got started last night. And I thought I would be done last night.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    Icicles and ice stands are another issue. Call a roofer and the answering machine says, sorry, too busy to respond. But as in any winter snowmageddon, there's always a silver lining.

  • MAN:

    Look at that. Look at that.

  • EMILY ROONEY:

    Now that townhouses on Beacon Hill are suitable for what our forefathers had in mind, ski in, ski out.

    From Boston, this is Emily Rooney of WGBH reporting for the NewsHour.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Boston mayor is dealing with another annoyance, though, brought on by the weather. And that is people filming themselves jumping out of windows into snowbanks, and posting the videos on social media. Mayor Walsh warned, "It's a foolish thing to do and you could kill yourself." We have the story on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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