Late-season storm hammers Northeast
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.
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.