BOSTON (AP) — A howling storm across the Northeast left the New York-to-Boston corridor shrouded in 1 to 3 feet of snow Saturday, stranding motorists on highways overnight and piling up drifts so high that some homeowners couldn’t get their doors open. More than 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity.
At least three deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the storm, including that of a New York man killed when the tractor he was using to plow his driveway ran off the edge of the road.
More than 38 inches of snow fell in Milford, Conn., and an 82 mph wind gust was recorded in nearby Westport. Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire got at least 2 feet of snow, with more falling.
Roads in many places were impassable. Across much of New England, snowed-over cars looked like white blobs. Streets were mostly deserted save for snowplow crews and a few hardy souls walking dogs or venturing out to take pictures. In Boston’s Financial District, the only sound was an army of snowblowers clearing sidewalks.
The digging-out went more smoothly in some places than in others.
A little more than 11 inches fell in New York, but the city was “in great shape” and “dodged a bullet,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, predicting streets would be cleared by the end of the day. The New York region’s three major airports – LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. – were up and running again by late morning after shutting down the evening before.
But hundreds of motorists had abandoned their vehicles on New York’s Long Island, and even snowplows were getting stuck. Emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists, some of whom spent the night stuck in their cars.
Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and head for his home in Middle Island, N.Y., in Suffolk County, but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.
“There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing,” he said. He finally gave up and spent the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.
“I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit,” he said. “It was very icy under my car. That’s why my car is still there.”
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut closed roads to all but essential traffic.
Some of the worst of the storm appeared to hit Connecticut, where even emergency responders found themselves stuck on highways all night. In the shoreline community of Fairfield, police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift was staying on duty, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
“It’s a real challenge out there,” Tetreau said. “The roads are not passable at this point. We are asking everyone to stay home and stay safe.”
Several state police cars were also stuck in deep snow in Maine, where stranded drivers were warned to expect long waits for tow trucks.
Nearly 22 inches of snow fell in Boston and more was expected, closing in on the city’s 2003 record of 27.6 inches. The archdiocese in the heavily Roman Catholic city reminded parishioners that, under church law, the requirement to attend Sunday Mass “does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation.”
Flooding was a concern along the coast. The possibility led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, Mass., south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury, in northeastern Massachusetts
The Postal Service closed post offices and suspended mail delivery Saturday in New England.
“This is crazy. I mean it’s just nuts,” Eileen O’Brien said in blacked-out Sagamore Beach, Mass., as she cleared heavy snow from her deck for fear it might collapse.
As the pirate flag outside her door snapped and popped in gale-force winds Saturday, she said: “My thermostat keeps dropping. Right now it’s 54 inside, and I don’t have any wood. There’s nothing I can do to keep warm except maybe start the grill and make some coffee.”
In South Windsor, Conn., Bill Tsoronis used a snowblower to carve paths through huge snow drifts in his neighborhood.
“I thought we might have 18 or 20 inches, but in some places it’s up to my waist. It’s more than I expected,” he said. Still, he said the storm was not much more than a nuisance, since the neighborhood still had power, and he said he might gather with neighbors for cocktails later in the day.
His neighbor Mike Schroder said as he brushed snow off cars in his driveway that the storm lived up to the hype.
“This is finally one they got right,” he said. He said the cleanup will take some time: “When the snow is higher than the snowblower, you’re in trouble.”