East emerges from the blizzard
NEW YORK — After a weekend of sledding, snowboarding and staying put, the blizzard-blanketed Eastern U.S. will confront a Monday commute slowed by slick roads, damaged transit lines and endless mounds of snow.
Authorities cautioned against unnecessary driving, airline schedules were in disarray and commuter trains will be delayed or canceled for many as the work week begins after a storm that dumped near record snows on the densely populated Washington, D.C. to New York City corridor.
The last flakes fell just before midnight Saturday, but crews raced the clock all day Sunday to clear streets and sidewalks devoid of their usual bustle.
Ice chunks plunging from the roofs of tall buildings menaced people who ventured out in Philadelphia and New York. High winds on Manhattan’s Upper West Side kept the snow from entirely swallowing the tiny Mini Cooper of Daniel Bardman, who nervously watched for falling icicles as he dug out.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged people to leave their plowed-in cars covered with snow all week after a one-day record of 26.6 inches fell in Central Park.
That advice came too late for Bob Raldiris, who tried shoveling his Nissan Maxima out of a spot in Ridgewood, Queens, before passing plows and trucks spoiled his labor. “This is terrible,” he said, pointing to a pile of snow three feet high.
Sunday’s brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures provided a respite from the blizzard that paralyzed Washington and dropped a record 29.2 inches on Baltimore. The weekend timing could not have been better, enabling many to enjoy a gorgeous winter day.
It was just right for a huge snowball fight in Baltimore, where more than 600 people responded to organizer Aaron Brazell’s invite on Facebook.
“I knew people would be cooped up in their houses and wanting to come outside,” said Brazell, who was beaned by multiple blasts of perfectly soft but firm snow.
But treacherous conditions remained as people recovered from a storm that dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England. At least 30 deaths were blamed on the weather, with shoveling snow and breathing carbon monoxide collectively claiming almost as many lives as car crashes.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike reopened Sunday afternoon near Pittsburgh after more than 500 cars, trucks and buses — some carrying the Duquesne University men’s basketball team and the Temple University women’s gymnastics squad — got stuck Friday night. The huge backup happened after trucks couldn’t climb through the mountains toward the Allegheny tunnels in what would become 35 inches of snow.
But one day of sunshine wasn’t enough to clear many other roads. Federal offices were closed Monday, and Virginia’s state workers were told to stay home. Schools from Washington to the Jersey Shore gave students Monday off; In the D.C. suburbs, classes also were canceled for Tuesday.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Sunday evening that almost all mass transit services will be running in time for the morning rush hour, including nearly 80 percent of the Long Island Rail Road.
Broadway reopened after going dark at the last minute during the snowstorm, but museums remained closed in Washington, and the House of Representatives postponed votes until February, citing the storm’s impact on travel.
Flying remained particularly messy after nearly 12,000 weekend flights were canceled. Airports resumed limited service in New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which said it got an entire winter’s snow in two days. Washington-area airports remained closed Sunday after the punishing blizzard.
Major airlines also canceled hundreds of flights for Monday. Along with clearing snow and ice from facilities and equipment, the operators of airlines, train and transit systems had to figure out how to get snowbound employees to work.
Amtrak operated a reduced number of trains on all its routes, serving many people who couldn’t get around otherwise, spokesman Marc Magliari said. But bus and rail service was expected to be limited around the region into Monday.
Overall snowfall of 26.8 inches in Central Park made it New York’s second biggest winter storm since records began in 1869, and Saturday’s 26.6 inches made for a single-day record in the city.
Some of the blizzard’s heaviest snow bands wound up over New York City and Long Island, sending snow totals spiking higher than the 12-18 inches forecasters predicted Thursday.
“Just about everybody was expecting a strong storm system,” National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Wichrowski said Sunday. “The question always was, just how heavy was the precipitation going to be?”
Washington’s records were less clear. The official 3-day total of 17.8 inches measured at Reagan National Airport was impossibly short of accumulations recorded elsewhere in the city. An official total of 22.4 inches landed at the National Zoo, for example.
The zoo remained closed through Monday but a video of its giant panda Tian Tian making snow angels got more than 48 million views. Joining the fun, Jeffrey Perez, of Millersville, Maryland, climbed into a panda suit and rolled around in the snow, snagging more than half a million views of his own.
Mother Nature was less deadly this time than human nature. A beloved Capitol policeman joined a grim list of people suffering heart attacks while shoveling snow. And a growing number of people died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Passaic, New Jersey, on Sunday, a mother and year-old son watching their family shovel snow from the apparent safety of their car died because snow blocked the tailpipe; her 3-year-old daughter was in critical condition. A man who tried to shovel out his car in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, met a similar fate after a snowplow buried him inside. And an elderly couple in Greenville, South Carolina, was poisoned by the generator in their garage after losing power.
Roofs collapsed on a Pennsylvania church, a Virginia theater and a barn outside Frederick, Maryland, which got 33.5 inches of snow, killing some cows. Douglas Fink felt terrible about that: “I was trying to protect them, but they probably would have been better off just standing outside.”