A swirling storm clobbered parts of the mid-Atlantic and the country's urban northeast in the U.S. on Tuesday, dumping nearly a foot and a half (45 cm) of snow, grounding thousands of flights, closing government offices in the U.S. capital and making a mess of the evening commute.
The storm stretched 1,600 km between Kentucky and Massachusetts but hit especially hard along the heavily populated corridor between Philadelphia and Boston, creating perilous rides home for millions of motorists.
The National Weather Service said Manalapan, New Jersey, got 15.5 inches (39.4 cm) of snow, Philadelphia got slightly more than a foot (30 cm) and Brookhaven, near Philadelphia’s airport, got 15 inches (38 cm). It said parts of New York City had 10 inches (25 cm).
The snow came down harder and faster than many people expected. A blizzard warning was posted for parts of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod.
Parts of the northeastern New England States saw initial light snowfalls turn heavier as the night wore on. Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, each received about 11 inches (28 cm) of snow, and Stamford, Connecticut, got 9 inches (23 cm). Forecasters said the storm could be followed by bitter cold as arctic air from Canada streams in.
In Maryland,the storm was blamed for at least one death in the state, that of a driver whose car fishtailed into the path of a tractor-trailer on a snow-covered road 80 km northwest of Baltimore. And police said the storm might have claimed more lives: A preliminary investigation showed wet conditions played a role in a two-vehicle crash that killed two people in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
The storm was a conventional one that developed off the coast and moved its way up the Eastern Seaboard, pulling in cold air from the arctic. Unlike the epic freeze of two weeks ago, it wasn’t caused by a kink in the polar vortex, the winds that circulate around the North Pole.
This second fierce blast of winter weather is sapping fuel supplies in many regions in the U.S. and sending prices for propane and natural gas to record highs.
Customers who heat with natural gas or electricity probably won’t see dramatically higher prices, in part because utilities typically buy their fuel under longer-term contracts at set prices. But propane customers who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their tanks could be paying $100 to $200 more per fill-up than they did a month ago.
About 3,000 flights for Tuesday were cancelled, with airports from Washington to Boston affected. More than 1,000 flights for Wednesday were called off as well. Amtrak planned to cut back passenger train service.
The rush to get home early by many workers was evident in Philadelphia, where many commuter trains were packed.
The storm put a damper on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s inauguration, forcing the cancellation of an evening party. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick postponed his annual State of the State address, and the Philadelphia Flyers postponed their Tuesday night ice hockey game.
Schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky stayed closed for an extra day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday or sent students home early.
Federal workers in the Washington area also were given the day off.