The Northeast girded itself as a fast-moving storm moved full-force into the region overnight, bringing an icy mix of snow and rain, stranding hundreds of airplane passengers, leaving more than 300,000 customers in and around the nation’s capital without power, and making roads treacherous for Thursday morning commuters.
Public schools remained closed for a second day Thursday and motorists were warned of dangerous road conditions. In New York’s Central Park, 15 inches had fallen by 2 a.m. ET, taking the total for January to 32.3 inches and smashing an 86-year-old record for the month, according to the National Weather Service. A million kids in the city got a snow day with all public schools closed, NBC News reported.
In other areas, 16 inches had fallen at Newark by 3 a.m., an estimated 11 inches hit Philadelphia, with 6 inches at Baltimore/Washington International Airport and 9 in Washington Dulles International Airport. In Kentucky, where several inches of snow fell, a man was killed by a truck that lost control in the treacherous conditions. The dead man had lost control on the same patch and got out of his pickup truck shortly before he was hit.
Police on New York’s Long Island said a pickup truck plowing a snow-covered parking lot struck and killed a woman Wednesday afternoon. In a region already contending with above-average snowfall this season, the storm that began Wednesday added several more inches.
In Portsmouth, N.H., workers were nearly out of room to stash their plowed snow. “We probably have a five-story snow dump right now,” said Portsmouth public works director David Allen. “It’s time to get a lift up on it and we could probably do a ski run.”
Meteorologist Neil Strauss, of the National Weather Service, warned of traveling in the storm and said gusts in Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts could reach 40 mph to 50 mph. Parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were expected to get thunderstorms, “somewhat unusual” for this time of year, he said.
As the storm approached Wednesday, schools were closed, governments sent workers home early, and commutes were snarled. Cars and buses slipped and slid on highways. Pedestrians struggled across icy patches that were on their way to becoming deep drifts. The New York area’s three major airports, among the nation’s busiest, saw more than 1,000 flights canceled. Philadelphia International Airport expected more than 1,000 passengers would be stranded because of cancellations.
Rain drenched the nation’s capital for most of the day and changed to sleet before it started snowing in earnest at mid-afternoon. The snow and icy roads created hazardous conditions for President Barack Obama as he returned to the White House after a post-State of the Union trip to Manitowoc, Wis. The wintry weather grounded Marine One, the helicopter that typically transports Obama to and from the military base where Air Force One lands.
Instead, the president was met at the plane by his motorcade, which spent an hour weaving through rush hour traffic already slowed by the storm. It normally takes the president’s motorcade about 20 minutes to travel between the base and the White House.
Officials urged residents in Washington and Maryland to stay off the roads as snow, thunder and lightning pounded the Mid-Atlantic region. In D.C., Metro transit officials pulled buses off the roads as conditions deteriorated. Firefighters warned the heavy snow was bringing down power lines and causing outages.