Storm unleashes blizzard conditions on parts of Northeast

Blizzard in NYC
Courtesy: Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A storm packing blizzard conditions spun up the East Coast early Tuesday, pounding coastal eastern Long Island into Maine with high winds and heavy snow, but it failed to live up to the hype in big cities like Philadelphia and New York, which canceled its travel ban amid better-than-expected weather conditions.

Massachusetts was pounded by snow and lashed by strong winds early Tuesday as bands of heavy snow left some towns including Sandwich on Cape Cod and Oxford in central Massachusetts reporting more than 18 inches of snow. Total accumulation was expected to reach or exceed two feet in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the top snowstorms of all time. The National Weather Service says a wind gust of 78 mph was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph gust was reported in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard.

Central Park
Central Park in New York City (Jan. 26, 2015)

Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion, particularly on Cape Cod.

“So far, so good,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said at a morning briefing at the state’s emergency management bunker in Framingham. He said colder than expected weather produced light and fluffy snow, which may be helping in keeping the overall number of power outages down.

Maine and New Hampshire each declared a state of emergency, and government offices in both states were closed Tuesday.

Parts of Long Island dealt with hazardous conditions, with snow falling 2 inches per hour. Islip had 14.7 inches of snow by early Tuesday.

Police say a 17-year-old boy snow-tubing down a New York street with friends has crashed into a light pole and died. Suffolk County police say it happened around 10 p.m. Monday in Huntington on Long Island. Police say he apparently lost control of the tube and struck a light pole. Police identified the victim as Sean Urda of East Northport.

Blizzard Airport
More than 6,500 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled.

Sections of New York were forecast to see from 10 to 20 inches of snow, and a 60-mile stretch of the New York Thruway was reopened after being shut down for about nine hours. In Hartford, Connecticut, up to a foot of snow was expected.

But as the storm system spun northward, conditions improved quickly from southwest to northeast. Travel bans were lifted before midmorning in New Jersey and New York. New York City buses, subways and trains were expected to restart later in the morning and a return to a full schedule was expected Wednesday.

The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.

But some areas in the Northeast escaped the brunt of the storm.

In southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, where a foot or more of snow had been forecast, residents dealt with 3 to 5 inches of the white stuff, which proved to be more annoying than life-altering.

On Monday, life abruptly stopped across parts of the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews.

A New York City snowplow, loaded with salt, sits parked in midtown Manhattan as light snow falls, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Northeast residents are girding for a heavy snowstorm that could bury communities from northern New Jersey to southern Maine in up to 2 feet of snow. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A New York City snowplow, loaded with salt, sits parked in midtown Manhattan as light snow falls, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Northeast residents are girding for a heavy snowstorm that could bury communities from northern New Jersey to southern Maine in up to 2 feet of snow. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Light snow fell steadily early Tuesday in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets. The city had an almost eerie, post 9/11 feel to it: No airplanes in the sky. An unexpected quiet.

Brandon Bhajan, a security guard at a West 33rd Street building, said the situation early Tuesday was better than expected.

“We expected a lot more accumulation,” Bhajan said. “I feel like the wind is more of the problem than the actual snowfall. It’s rough to walk and it’s very, very cold.

“I don’t think they (city) overblew it. I think it’s like the situation with Ebola … if you over-cover people are ready and prepared rather than not giving it the attention it needs.”

More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.

On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange said it would operate normally Tuesday.

Through midmorning, utility companies across the region reported minimal power outages.

Associated Press writers Sean Carlin and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia; Ula Ilnytzky in New York City; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; and Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this report.

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