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January 3, 2014

Big winter storm dumps 21 inches of snow in Mass.

BOSTON — A strong winter storm slammed the Northeast with stiff winds and punishing cold on Thursday, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of the region and threatening more.

The National Weather Service said 21 inches of snow had fallen in Boxford, just north of Boston, by Thursday night, while other parts of the state had 17 or 18 inches. It said parts of upstate New York had 18 inches while New York City was expected to get about 8.

The brutal weather extended Christmas break for some students while posing the first test for New York’s new mayor and perhaps the last challenge for Boston’s outgoing one.

Some schools in New England and New York closed well ahead of the Thursday snowfall. Cities have mobilized plows and salt spreaders. Some major highways have been ordered shut down overnight. Efforts are underway to get homeless people into the warmth and safety of shelters.

U.S. airlines have canceled more than 2,300 flights nationwide.

The heavy weather began rolling in just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation’s largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office.

Menino announced a parking ban and said schools would be closed today in Boston, where up to 14 inches of snow was expected.

“What a New Year’s gift, to receive one last snowstorm as mayor,” said Menino, whose successor takes office on Monday.

De Blasio, who as public advocate in 2010 criticized his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said hundreds of plows and salt spreaders would be on the streets as soon as the snow started falling Thursday night.

“We have to get it right, no question about it,” de Blasio said. “We are focused like a laser on protecting this city and getting everyone ready. We have all hands on deck.”

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