U.S. News

Northeast recovers from wet, heavy snowstorm

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Northeast dug out of yet another winter storm on Thursday that pummeled the region with unexpectedly heavy snowfall, making January the snowiest month in New York in more than 85 years.

In Central Park, 19 inches of snow fell overnight in the storm that forced airports and schools to close. The wet snow fell at dizzying speeds during the height of the storm, as much as three inches per hour, said Weather Channel meteorologists.

New York officials vowed to keep the city running after Mayor Michael Bloomberg, agency heads and municipal workers came under heavy criticism for the slow response to the Christmas weekend blizzard that brought services to a halt.

“We learn,” said Bloomberg at a City Hall news conference on Thursday. “We asked the questions of what didn’t work last time and whether there’s anything we could do differently.”

The city suspended bus service shortly after midnight, he noted. In the Christmas blizzard, 600 city buses became stranded but with this suspension, almost no buses were stranded on Thursday, the mayor said.

Bus service was gradually restored through the day, and about 1,500 laborers were shoveling out bus stops, he said.

“Our expectation is that by tomorrow morning’s rush hour all of the city streets and roadways will have been plowed,” Bloomberg said.

The storm, which dropped twice as much snow as had been predicted, brought the city’s January total accumulation to 36 inches, breaking a record from 1925, the mayor said.

“This is so much worse than I think we all expected,” said Julia Scharf, 27, a dental technician who commuted to New York from Bethpage, Long Island.

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“I had to clean about 15 or so inches off my car before I could drive to the train station.”

Commuter train and bus service from some suburbs, including Long Island, was limited or suspended throughout the day.

Metro-North Railroad lines between New York and some towns in Connecticut, including New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury, were out of service. The day’s ridership throughout the region was down by about half, a spokeswoman said.

New York City schools were closed, only the ninth time since 1978 that schools closed due to snow, the mayor said.

The National Weather Service said that in addition to the 19 inches of new snow in Central Park, nearly 19 inches fell at Newark Airport and 18 inches in suburban New Canaan, Connecticut.

The snowfall was just shy of the Christmas blizzard that dropped 20 inches on New York City.

Flight delays averaging more than four hours were reported at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which had been closed due to the storm but reopened on Thursday morning.

Delays averaging about two hours were reported at Newark International Airport, LaGuardia Airport in New York and Philadelphia International Airport.

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Snowfall ranged from 12 to 17 inches in Philadelphia, where nine people spent nine hours on a bus stuck in the snow, said Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Along with the driver, those nine chose to remain on the heated bus rather than brave the elements, she said.

About 15,000 households south and west of Philadelphia lost power, according to the utility Peco. By late afternoon, some 10,000 had power restored, and the rest were expected to have power restored by midnight, the utility said.

In the Washington, D.C., area, where some commuters were caught in hours-long traffic jams during the storm, tens of thousands were without power, mostly due to snow-laden trees downing utility lines.

About 163,000 Pepco customers in the Washington area remained without power by late afternoon on Thursday and may not have power until late Friday, a Pepco spokesman said.

In Boston, a second runway at Logan International Airport was closed until mid-afternoon, an airport spokesman said.

Snow accumulation contributed to a handful of large, industrial properties and smaller buildings across Massachusetts and Connecticut that reported roof collapses.

“If you have a roof, particularly a flat roof on any part of your house, now is the time to get up there and remove as much of that snow as you can,” Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy said at a news conference in Hartford.

Given the winter weather pattern, he said: “We might as well count on receiving additional snow, so acting on this stuff before it becomes rock solid is a good idea.”

In weather-related deaths, a woman was struck and killed by a snowplow on Wednesday in Center Moriches, New York. In Wilmington, a 51-year-old woman died early Thursday after being hit by a snow plow owned by the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston, Jon Hurdle in Philadelphia, Ted Lorson in Norwich, Connecticut, Jerry Norton in Washington, and Bernd Debusmann Jr. and Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Greg McCune