Late-sea­son storm hammers North­east

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN / BERK­SHIRE EA­GLE

Re­becca Polo shov­els her drive­way Tues­day morn­ing in Pitts­field, Mass., as a late-sea­son storm plas­tered the North­east. Winds gusted over 70 mph along the Mas­sachusetts coast, with waves crash­ing over sea walls. Up to a foot of snow was ex­pected in Bos­ton. A quar­ter-mil­lion cus­tomers lost power and more than 6,000 flights were grounded in the North­east. The bliz­zard caused the can­cel­la­tion of dozens of flights at Austin-Bergstrom In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Pri­mar­ily af­fected were flights head­ing to­ward or sched­uled to ar­rive from Philadel­phia, Bos­ton, New York and Ne­wark, N.J.

A blus­tery late-sea­son storm plas­tered the North­east with sleet and snow Tues­day, par­a­lyz­ing much of the Wash­ing­ton-to-Bos­ton cor­ri­dor af­ter a stretch of un­usu­ally mild win­ter weather that had peo­ple think­ing spring had al­ready ar­rived.

The pow­er­ful nor’easter fell well short of the pre­dicted snow to­tals in New York and Philadel­phia but un­loaded 1 to 2 feet in many places in­land, grounded more than 6,000 flights and knocked out power to nearly a quar­ter-mil­lion cus­tomers from Vir­ginia north­ward.

By the time it reached Mas­sachusetts, it had turned into a bliz­zard, with near hur­ri­cane-force wind gust­ing over 70 mph along the coast and waves crash­ing over the sea­walls. Up to a foot of snow was ex­pected in the Bos­ton area.

It was eas­ily the big­gest storm in a pre­vi­ously mer­ci­ful win­ter that had mostly spared the North­east.

“It’s hor­ri­ble,” said re­tired gum­ball-ma­chine tech­ni­cian Don Zim­mer­man, of Le­moyne, Pa., us­ing a snow­blower to clear the side­walk along his block. “I thought win­ter was out of here . ... It’s a real kick in the rear.”

While peo­ple mostly heeded warn­ings to stay home and off the roads, po­lice said a 16-year-old girl was killed when she lost con­trol of her car on a snowy road and hit a tree in Gil­ford, N.H.

The storm closed schools in cities big and small, Am­trak sus­pended ser­vice and the postal ser­vice halted mail de­liv­ery.

Philadel­phia and New York City got any­where from a few inches of snow to around half a foot be­fore the storm switched over mostly to sleet; fore­cast­ers had pre­dicted a foot or more. In New Jersey, which saw rain or just a lit­tle snow in many ar­eas, Gov. Chris Christie called the storm an “un­der­per­former.” But of­fi­cials warned of dan­ger­ous ice. In­land ar­eas, mean­while, were hit hard. Har­ris­burg, Pa., and Worces­ter, Mass., re­ceived a foot or more of snow. The Bing­ham­ton, N.Y., area got over 2 feet, while Ver­non, N.J., had at least 19 inches.

The storm came just days af­ter the re­gion saw tem­per­a­tures climb into the 60s, and less than a week be­fore the official start of spring. Fe­bru­ary, too, was re­mark­ably warm.

“The win­ters seem to be up­side down now. Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary are nice and then March and April seem to be more win­try than they were in the past,” said Bob Clif­ford, who ven­tured out on an early morn­ing gro­cery run for his fam­ily in Al­ta­mont, near Al­bany, N.Y.

His ad­vice: “Just hide in­side. Hiber­nate.”

In the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, non-es­sen­tial fed­eral em­ploy­ees were given the op­tion of re­port­ing three hours late, tak­ing the day off or work­ing from home. The city got less than 2 inches of snow.

A few ear­lier, work­ers on Wash­ing­ton’s Na­tional Mall had been mak­ing plans to turn on the foun­tains.

As the storm closed in, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice used terms like “life-threat­en­ing” and urged peo­ple to “shel­ter in place,” lan­guage that has come to be as­so­ci­ated with mass shoot­ings. In the end, the line be­tween snow and rain shifted slightly to the west, spar­ing some of the North­east’s big cities.

Gov­ern­ment me­te­o­rol­o­gists re­al­ized by late Mon­day after­noon that there was a good chance the storm wasn’t go­ing to pro­duce the giant snow to­tals pre­dicted. But they didn’t change their fore­cast for fear peo­ple would mis­tak­enly think the storm was no longer dan­ger­ous, said Greg Carbin, chief of fore­cast op­er­a­tions at the Weather Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter.

In New York City, two homes un­der con­struc­tion col­lapsed near the water­front in Far Rock­away. No in­juries were re­ported.

SCOTT EISEN / GETTY IM­AGES

A tree fell on top of a car in Re­vere, Mass., in the storm. The nor’easter fell well short of the pre­dicted snow to­tals in New York and Philadel­phia, but up to a foot of snow was ex­pected in the Bos­ton area.

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