A slow—moving winter storm smacked the Northeast on Friday, unleashing heavy snow, rain and hurricane—force winds as it knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses. It turned Maine beachfront streets into rivers and piled on the misery in places hit by three major blizzards in less than a month.
Every form of travel was miserable if not impossible. More than 1,000 flights were cancelled, bus service across northern New Jersey was knocked out and roads from Ohio to West Virginia to Maine were closed. State troopers used snowmobiles to reach motorists stranded for hours on an eastern New York highway.
Power failures were so severe and widespread in New Hampshire - 340,000 of the state’s roughly 800,000 customers - that even the state Emergency Operations Centre was operating on a generator. Gov. John Lynch said it could take a week for all those lights to flicker back on.
It was wind and rain rather than snow that wreaked havoc in that famously frigid state and its neighbour Maine. Parts of southern Maine were hit with more than 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain.
Areas to the south, meanwhile, got their third heavy dumping of snow this month. The upstate New York town of Monroe received 31 inches (78 centimeters), and New York City got 20.9 inches (53 centimeters) in Central Park, pushing the February total to 36.9 inches (93 centimeters) and making it the snowiest month in the city’s history. The National Weather Service said the previous high monthly total recorded in Central Park was 30.5 inches (77 centimeters) in March 1896, and the previous high for the month of February was 27.9 inches (70 centimeters) in 1934.
A man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park in New York City, one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.
Much of the region, particularly Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, only recently finished cleaning up from a pair of storms a few weeks ago.
Friday’s storm made February the snowiest month ever for New Brunswick, New Jersey; it has gotten 37 inches (93 centimeters) so far. This had already been the snowiest winter for Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Blowing, drifting snow blinded and stranded drivers in mountainous parts of West Virginia, shutting down countless roads, and National Guard troops were mobilized to help. It was bad enough that mail service was suspended in six counties.
“The drifts are 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep over the roads, and highways can’t move fast enough to keep them open,” said Marvin Hill, emergency manager for Randolph County.
Even skiers in the area got bad news. Snowshoe Mountain Resort had boasted the best conditions in its 36—year history this week, but a jack-knifed tractor-trailer blocked the only road on Friday.
The highest wind reported was 91 mph (145 kph) off Portsmouth, N.H. - well above hurricane force of 74 mph (120 kph). Gusts also hit 60 mph (96 kph) or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York’s Long Island and Massachusetts.
Thousands of schools were closed, including in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg acquiesced after vowing to keep them open.
About 1,000 flights were cancelled in Boston, Philadelphia and the New York area, according to the Air Transport Association. But by late morning, things began clearing up to the south, with three of Philadelphia International Airport’s four runways open.
The weatherwinter storm snarled traffic across the Northeast, including on some major highways. A tractor-trailer jack-knifed and as many as 20 trucks piled up on a mile of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, forcing closure of a 60—mile (95—kilometer) stretch in the hills of central Pennsylvania. Two injuries were reported.