Nor'easter wallops Northeast from D.C. to Boston
NEW YORK, N.Y. — A sloppy, blustery, late-season storm lashed the Northeast with sleet and more than a foot of snow in some places Tuesday. The storm paralyzed much of the East Coast from Washington D.C. to Boston after a remarkably mild February had convinced people that the worst of winter was over.
The powerful nor'easter — that is, a storm that blows from the Northeast — grounded nearly 6,000 flights. It knocked out power to around 200,000 customers from Virginia northward, closed schools in cities big and small and prompted dire warnings to stay off the roads.
As the morning wore on, the storm's path shifted slightly and snow switched to sleet in Philadelphia and New York. That prompted forecasters to lift blizzard warnings for the two big cities and cut their prediction of a foot or more of snow by over half.
But residents farther inland from the coasts got clobbered. Towns along Pennsylvania's northern tier had nearly 16 inches of snow before 9 a.m., while a foot fell in the state capital of Harrisburg and nearly 2 feet in the Pocono Mountains.
"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, New York.
His advice: "Just hide inside. Hibernate."
Hundreds Stranded At Airports
The above-ground portions of the New York subway system were shut down, and the flight cancellations included nearly 3,300 in the New York City area alone. Hundreds of passengers were stranded at airports.
Laura and Matthew Balderstone of West Yorkshire, England, intended to spend their honeymoon in Florida but found themselves stuck at the Newark, New Jersey airport and couldn't find a hotel room.
"It's better safe than sorry, especially flying. I suppose it's a shame that we can't get another way around this. It's just the way it is, unfortunately," Matthew Balderstone said.
The nor'easter came a week after the region saw temperatures climb into the 60s, and less than a week before the official start of spring.
Washington, D.C., Had Been Planning For Spring
In the nation's capital, the federal government announced that non-emergency employees would be arriving to work three hours late, with an option to take the day off or work from home.
A few days ago, workers on Washington's National Mall were making plans to turn on the fountains.
"Obviously all that has to come to an abrupt stop until we get all the snow cleared," said Jeff Gowen, the acting facility manager for the National Mall and Memorial Parks. "The cherry blossoms, they're right on the cusp of going into bloom here. I had a feeling this was going to happen."
State Of Emergency Declared In New York
In New York City, two ponies broke free from their stables and roamed the streets of Staten Island in the snow until an off-duty police officer noticed them. He took straps normally used in towing cars to wrangle the animals and tied them to a lamppost. They were taken back to the stables.
"We want to thank our cowboy officer," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and instructed non-essential state employees to stay home. In Massachusetts, where the forecast called for 12 to 18 inches of snow, Governor Charlie Baker encouraged motorists to stay off the roads and to take public transit only if absolutely necessary. The fast snowfall rates would make driving hazardous, he said.
"Good day to make brownies ... and or read a book," said Governor Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, which was expecting up to 2 feet of snow in some areas.
Voters Trudge Through Snow To Local Elections
The storm coincided with New Hampshire's traditional Town Meeting Day. That's when voters in more than 100 communities elect many important local political positions, and in some locations, set their annual budgets.
Some towns postponed their elections because of the snow. But in Hopkinton, a steady stream of voters braved the blustery conditions to make it to the polls.
"You know, they're hardy New Englanders, and they're coming to vote," said Debbie Norris, who is running for office in Hopkinton.
The heaviest snowfall was expected Tuesday morning through the afternoon, with as much as 2 to 4 inches per hour.
The snow threat led college basketball teams to alter their travel plans for the March Madness tournament. Villanova, top overall seed in the men's NCAA Tournament, left Philadelphia on Monday afternoon for Buffalo, New York, to get ahead of the storm.
But teams in the men's and women's tournaments rely on chartered flights, so any backlog at commercial airlines shouldn't be a problem.