By Melanie Eversley
BOSTON - While the storm was one to be taken seriously, locals here Saturday used the surreal conditions in the snow-covered city to be kids again.
They ran and jogged over snow mounds in the middle of normally busy downtown streets that were now empty. They frolicked with dogs who disappeared into giant walls of snow and re-emerged a few seconds later, tails wagging.
One man scrambled to the top of a giant snow mountain, striking a macho pose at the top as if he were king of the world. His friends laughed and rolled their eyes.
For Andy Klein, there was only one thing to do when he saw all the snow - put on his cross-country skis.
The bundled-up 37-year-old Bostonian was making his way on skis toward the Charles River, about 10 minutes away. There, he planned to meet friends and spend the day cross-country skiing.
He ran a ski over the powdery snow. "The lighter stuff is good to ski on," Klein said.
In the Boston metro area and statewide, though, officials scrambled to keep the public informed and get help to those who needed it. The state announced a vehicular travel ban first instituted on Friday afternoon was lifted at 4 p.m. Saturday, although some of the few motorists that ventured out found themselves getting stuck in snow. The ban forbade passenger vehicles from being on the roads unless they were connected to emergency services or some other necessary effort. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the subway system also known as the "T," remained shut down on Saturday, but expected to resume service on Monday. Flights in and out of Logan International Airport remained suspended, as did Amtrak service between Boston and New York.
Earlier Saturday, Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, reported that more than 400,000 people in the state were without power and that several communities threatened by potential floods were receiving help from National Guard troops in moving residents away from the water.
Meantime, in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, Richard Rossoll ventured out Saturday morning with two friends, despite a boot on his right foot to protect an ankle that had been broken and had undergone surgery. Rossoll devised some makeshift protection for the foot with a trash bag and some duct tape.
"I bagged it up so no snow gets in here," said Rossoll, 23, a senior at Northeastern University who is from Lebanon, N.H. "I've been going up and down snow banks," he said as he wandered around downtown with fellow seniors Katie White and Brenna Schappler.
Parts of the city were able to come back to life quickly because workers shoveled through the night, and restaurants and hotels put their employees up for the night.
Lionel Gonzalez, who works for the Prudential Center shopping and office complex, said he had been shoveling snow for about 16 hours, except for a lunch break, by the time late Saturday morning rolled around.
"No sleep," said Gonzalez, 40.
A handful of store and restaurant owners decided to do what was necessary to remain open Friday and open on time Saturday. They said they wanted to be there for their customers.
The restaurant 5 Napkin Burger in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood stayed open during its regular hours, keeping its doors open until Friday night at midnight and opening back up Saturday at 11 a.m., said manager Robert Zuromski.
The restaurant on Huntington Avenue stayed open during Superstorm Sandy and other weather emergencies and this time around was no different, Zuromski said with a shrug. He said the establishment operated with about 20 members of his 65-member staff, and he put those employees up in a hotel.
"We're in the hospitality business," Zuromski said.
Bartender Alyssa Dicken moved quickly back and forth to help customers while explaining that although she lives two blocks away, she was OK walking home at midnight during the worst of the storm.
"I went out the back way - that's about a half a block, and then there's an overhang," said Dicken, 25. "That was half of my walk. It wasn't that bad."
In Somerville, Mass., Amsterdam Falafelshop Boston remained open Friday until regular closing time, midnight, and was slated to open on time at 11 a.m. on Saturday. This morning, owner Matt D'Alessio shoveled the knee-high snow and salted the sidewalk outside his restaurant. He said he expected a busy day Saturday because several customers last night came through, ready to order multiple sandwiches.
"The way I see small business is that we're providing a service to the local community," said D'Alessio, 29. "We remained open because people came to our shop."
The night before, as the storm rolled in, bringing with it high winds and frigid temperatures, people were not as upbeat.
Michael Davis, who is homeless, stood on a busy street in the Boston's Back Bay neighborhood with a shovel, hoping someone would hire him. But late Friday afternoon, Davis, 57, complained business so far was "lousy." The former roofer and painter lost his job during the recession. He said he hoped he could crash on a friend's couch when the storm intensified.
"I won't go to the shelters because they're dangerous," he said.
As the storm advanced Friday, wind picked up to a point to where pedestrians had to occasionally hold onto light poles. Wind-blown snow fell sideways, stinging the skin like needles. It seemed impossible to look straight ahead while walking. Temperatures dropped to a point where if one removed a glove for a few seconds, fingers became numb.
The new level of weather severity appeared to bring out a sense of caring among strangers on the streets. A young man walking backward to protect the slice of pizza he ate from a paper plate - bought from a pizzeria, the only business open nearby - encouraged another pedestrian to take care. One of two women clinging to each other as they struggled to walk upright in the wind encouraged a stranger to, "Get home safe." Meanwhile, a man driving a van offered a pedestrian a ride.
Contributing: Stephanie Haven