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February 8, 2013

Governor bans vehicle travel after 4 p.m. today

BOSTON -- With a wind-whipped snow storm expected to drop as much as three feet in some areas of Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick has banned vehicle travel on all roads starting at 4 p.m. Friday and the MBTA is ceasing operations at 3:30 p.m.

Patrick said the blizzard is “a profoundly different kind of storm than we have dealt with” and the projected snowfall rate of two to three inches per hour will “make safe travel nearly impossible.”

“I have now signed an executive order banning vehicle traffic effective at 4 o’clock today,” Patrick said from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham. “There are a number of exemptions to that for emergency workers and the like.”

MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz said that a similar executive order banning vehicular travel went into effect after the “blizzard of ‘78” and said he is unaware of any similar ban since then.

The order is “outright ban on all roads” with no set time for when it will be lifted. There are exceptions for public utility and health care workers as well as delivery trucks and news media. Schwartz said that the maximum penalty for people who violate the ban is one year imprisonment.

There are currently 1,000 National Guard troops, and Patrick said nearly 5,000 would be in place over the course of the weekend. The Department of Transportation had 1,600 pieces of equipment on the roads around noon on Friday, and planned to bring that number up to 4,000 as the storm intensifies.

The MBTA will send its last train out at 3:30 p.m., and turnpike tolls will be opened starting at 2 p.m., Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said. A total of 2,000 utility teams are in place, though work repairing downed wires will not begin until the storm is over, according to Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan.

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