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Sunday, January 23, 2005

The New York Times > National > Storm Moves Up Coast, Pounding Boston as It Leaves

The New York Times > National > Storm Moves Up Coast, Pounding Boston as It Leaves


The first major snow storm of 2005 moved up the Eastern seaboard this morning, hammering Boston and southeastern New England and leaving much of the Northeast buried in snow and buffeted by powerful winds and stinging cold.

The storm, officially a blizzard in parts of New England and Long Island, roared in from the Midwest on Saturday and turned into a classic northeaster, with 30 to 50 mile per hour winds and nebular arms revolving counterclockwise. It moved up the East Coast, gathering ocean moisture and hurling it back at the land as snow that blanketed cities and towns, closed airports, canceled hundreds of flights, choked railways and highways and filled the air with crystalline impressions.

On Sunday morning, the storm was still sinking its teeth into New England, with snow continuing to fall in Boston, leaving almost two feet by mid-morning. Winds blew over 70 miles an hour in some places, causing snow drifts to pile up several feet high, shrouding parked cars and blanketing streets.

The storm began quietly in the New York metropolitan area before noon on Saturday, a gentle whispering fall in the pale January light. But by evening, it had become a driving force of windblown snow, with gusts that hissed against the windows and mounting accumulations that, meteorologists said, only hinted at the depths to come.

By 7:00 a.m. this morning it had left 13 inches in Central Park and up to 19 inches in parts of Northern New Jersey, Eastern Long Island and southeastern New England. Suffolk County and the eastern reaches of Long Island were hit hard with 18 inches falling some places and winds blowing through the beach towns at 46 miles per hour.

By mid morning the snow had already tapered off in the city, though strong winds and cold temperatures remained. Across the Northeast, temperatures were expected to remain at 20 degrees or below for most of the day.

Jeff Warner, a meteorologist with Pennsylvania State University, said that the blizzard in New England could rival the storm of February 1978, which left 27 inches.

Local television stations in Massachusetts reported that around 3,000 people in the eastern part of the state lost power, including the governor, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney, who lost power for about two hours at his home in the Boston suburb of Belmont, said that cleaning up after storm could cost $10 million.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts declared states of emergency, and National Guard units were evacuating two Massachusetts towns, Hingham and Scituate, in response to coastal flooding.

The city of Boston was operating under a snow emergency, sending out 638 pieces of equipment, including snowplows and Bobcats. Mayor Thomas M. Menino ordered the schools to close on Monday and Tuesday and encouraged businesses to either stay closed on Monday or bring in only essential employees.

"This blizzard is up in the pantheon of the great Boston snowstorms," said Seth Gitell, a spokesman from the mayor's office.

National Football League conference championship games in Philadelphia (Eagles-Atlanta Falcons) and Pittsburgh (Steelers-New England Patriots) were still on track for today and, with the snow over by game times, only bitter cold and high winds were expected to be factors.

The Northeast was hardly alone in wintry misery. Heavy snows pounded parts of the Midwest, with the Chicago area getting its biggest snowfall of the season: more than eight inches by Saturday afternoon with more to come. At O'Hare International Airport, flight delays averaged seven and a half hours and hundreds of stranded passengers slept on cots near baggage claim areas.

In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered a state emergency operations center to open Saturday as forecasters predicted coastal flooding in parts of New London and Middlesex Counties.

And in New York City, officials declared a snow emergency as of 7 p.m. Saturday night, prohibiting motorists from standing or parking at major arteries. The city also suspended alternate side parking rules for tomorrow and Tuesday.

Blizzard warnings were posted for most of New York. The mid-Hudson Valley received up to 18 inches in places, and Albany got nearly a foot of snow.

Three weather-related deaths were reported in Ohio, where a man fell through ice on a pond and two people suffered heart attacks shoveling snow.

In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis had 12 inches of snow; Southern Michigan had 6 to 14 inches of snow yesterday, and drifts of three feet were common.

In the pantheon of winter storms in New York, it did not compare with the all-time record blizzard of Dec. 26-27, 1947, which interred the city in 26.4 inches of snow, and it is also fell short of the blizzard of Jan. 7-8, 1996, which left 20.2 inches in Central Park.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three major metropolitan airports - Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty International - as well as bridges, tunnels and the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) rail system, went into a full mobilization of personnel and equipment.

All three airports remain open today, but 60 flights have been canceled at Kennedy, 300 more canceled at Newark, and 250 canceled at La Guardia.

On Saturday, with whiteout conditions on runways, the intensifying storm closed the Philadelphia airport at 3:30 p.m. and Bradley International Airport near Hartford at 6:30 p.m. Logan International Airport in Boston was closed this morning at 5:30 a.m., Long Island MacArthur Airport at 8:15 a.m. and T.F.Green airport in Rhode Island at 8:30 a.m. The closings caused delays and cancellations that affected passengers as far away as Los Angeles.

Up and down the Northeast Corridor, driving remained treacherous on icy, snow-blown highways, roads and neighborhood streets. After lifting a ban on driving on state roads this morning at 8 a.m., the New Jersey state police were enforcing a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit on the Turnpike and a 45 mile-per-hour speed limit on the Garden State Parkway. In a press conference, Acting Gov. Richard Codey of New Jersey warned motorists about icy roads and urged people to stay home with their families.

"I fully expect in nine months there will be many, many babies in the state of New Jersey named Codey," he joked.

But trains and buses were also delayed by the storm, and getting around, for those who had to, was an ordeal. Many residents heeded the warnings to stay home and many businesses closed for the weekend.

The Long Island Rail Road, which operates 450 trains on 11 branches on a typical weekend, reported two train cancellations, both on the Greenport line, and only minor delays on the rest of the system.

"The high wind remains a concern," said Brian P. Dolan, a spokesman. "Just as quickly as we clear out an area it can snow again and collect up again."

A pedestrian was struck and killed by a train this morning at the Malverne station on the West Hempstead branch, Mr. Dolan said, though it is unclear whether the death was related to the weather conditions.

Today, Metro-North trains are running locally every two hours and Dan Brucker, a spokesman for MetroNorth said there have so far been no delays or cancellations.

New Jersey Transit, which operates 11 rail lines, 3 light rail systems and 240 bus routes around the state and into Manhattan, reduced its service schedule yesterday afternoon until midnight tonight.

By 1:30 this afternoon, New Jersey Transit had restored all of its bus service.

The Midtown Direct line between Penn Station and Dover, N.J., in Morris County was rerouted to Hoboken, where passengers could switch to PATH trains running to 33rd Street in Manhattan.

Forewarned, cities and counties across the region had readied armies of equipment and sent out fleets of salt spreaders and snowplows to counterattack as the snow began falling Saturday.

In New Jersey, state transportation officials and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority had more than 2,000 trucks on the roads, spreading 15,000 tons of salt. The Port Authority also had hundreds of pieces of equipment out, and more than 200,000 gallons of liquid de-icing chemicals for use on wings and other surfaces.

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg went to the department's Queens repair shop Saturday and said 2,500 sanitation workers - using 1,450 garbage trucks with plows, 82 dump trucks with plows and 350 salt spreaders - would work around the clock in two shifts to keep major arteries and streets open. He said he expected that all of the city's 6,300 miles of streets would be plowed at least once by the start of the workweek tomorrow morning.

The storm's timing significantly diminished its impact. For millions of suburban commuters and students home for the weekend, the snow was not a great hardship, except for the ordeal of shoveling a driveway or sidewalk, which leads every winter to many heart attacks.

But for many residents of the metropolitan area, the storm provided an opportunity - one of the few in a relatively mild winter that has recorded a total of only 4.3 inches of snow since autumn - to get out with sleds, skis or snowshoes and to frolic in the drifts. And for those so inclined, it was a chance to relax indoors, snowed in with Bach, Brubeck or a good book, cozy behind panes embroidered with frost.

For those who ventured out to play - hooded, booted, muffled to the eyes - the storm offered glimpses of nature's beauty: empty streets turned into white meadows, black-and-white woodlands painted in moonlight, snowflakes glittering like confections in a bakery - frosted, glazed, powdered, sugary - and in the parks children, romping, padded like armadillos.

There had been warnings for days by meteorologists and television broadcasters, and most people had stocked up on supplies for a weekend siege. But there were many last-minute shoppers yesterday, even as the snow began falling.

Doreen and Neal Erps, of North Brunswick, N.J., wheeled a cart out of a Home Depot on Route 1 in Edison with cabinet shelves. "I figure we'll be in the house all weekend long," said Mr. Erps. "We might as well do something productive, and remodeling the bathroom beats shoveling snow." But he had a shovel and a snowbrush in his cart as well. He explained, "I have several of them at home already, but with a storm like this you can never have enough shovels."

Nearby, Howard Myers, of New Brunswick, N.J., was loading up his S.U.V. with groceries and firewood. "My next stop is the liquor store," he said. "I'm going to get a nice bottle of Scotch, put the logs on the fire and let the storm rage outside while I read my book."

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