A blizzard swept across the northeastern United States on Tuesday, dropping as much as 2 feet (60 cm) of snow across Massachusetts and Connecticut even as its impact on New York City fell short of dire predictions.
The governors of New York and New Jersey lifted travel bans they had imposed a day earlier and New York City’s subway system restarted after being closed for 10 hours, though officials urged people to stay off snow-covered roadways.
“YUP, IT SNOWED!” headlined New York’s Daily News tabloid, taking matters in stride, the way New Yorkers typically pride themselves on doing.
Police said a teenager died late on Monday when he crashed into a lamppost on a street where he was snow-tubing on Long Island, one of the hardest hit areas in New York state.
The National Weather Service lifted its blizzard warning for the New York City area, but throughout the region offices were closed, schools were shut, some roads remained impassable, and thousands of flights were canceled or delayed.
A blizzard warning remained in effect for much of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where snow was expected to fall throughout the day at a rate as high as 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) an hour.
Boston could receive up to 25 inches (64 cm) of accumulation, approaching the record of 27.5 inches (69.85 cm) set in February 2003.
Some in New York criticized the aggressive warnings of officials including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who for the first time in history ordered the city’s round-the-clock subways to close for a snowstorm.
Officials with vivid memories of disasters including 2012’s Superstorm Sandy defended their actions.
Stuck at home, Northeasterners spent their energy on social media, filling Twitter and Facebook with photos of snow drifts covering the doors of their homes and what appeared to be a person in Boston dressed as the Yeti, a mythical abominable snowman, on hashtags including “#snowmaggeddon2015” and “#blizzardof2015.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joked with Twitter followers that it was “too cold” to wear the fleece jacket he had sported in photos after Sandy.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker broke with his predecessor’s tradition of wearing a fleece vest bearing a state emergency management agency logo, opting instead for a business suit he called his work uniform.
Some cab drivers in New York doubled fares and sought to pack additional passengers into their vehicles as office workers headed to their jobs.
The New York Stock Exchange, owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc, opened as usual. Nasdaq OMX Group , and BATS Global Markets also expected to stay open for normal operating hours on Tuesday.
‘Playing It Safe’
New Yorkers were divided on whether officials had over-reacted in ordering dramatic shutdowns ahead of the storm.
“The mayor might have blown it this time but he was probably just playing it safe,” said Manny Martinez, 55, as he salted his driveway in New York’s Brooklyn borough.
Others were frustrated that officials had preemptively shut the subway and ordered cabs off the roads.
“This made it a little difficult to go to my job. I usually take a taxi, but no taxis today,” said Greg Noble, 29, as he walked briskly to his maintenance job some 30 city blocks from his Manhattan home.
Cuomo defended the decisions, which had included a driving ban in New York City and its surrounding counties overnight.
“I would rather, if there is a lean one way or another, lean towards safety because I have seen the consequences the other way and it gets very frightening very quickly … we have had people die in storms,” Cuomo told reporters. “I would rather be in a situation where we say ‘We got lucky.'”
Christie, his New Jersey counterpart, was less sanguine about the dire forecasts that preceded the storm.
“I wasn’t thrilled on my 5:30 a.m. phone call, but it’s the way it goes,” Christie told Philadelphia’s WTXF television.
Connecticut, Massachusetts Hardest Hit
Some of the heaviest snowfall was recorded in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, with about 20 inches (50 cm) reported around Worcester, and well over the 6 inches (15 cm) reported in New York City’s Central Park.
Fewer Massachusetts residents and businesses lost power than was expected, Governor Baker said, adding that temperatures well below freezing had resulted in light snow. High winds could yet result in additional outages, he said.
“We’ll continue to see high winds throughout the course of the day,” Baker told reporters on Tuesday. “People should spend the morning digging out, cleaning up.”
Jay Begley, a 53-year-old web designer living in Somerville, just outside Boston, was taking that advice and clearing his driveway.
“This happens from time to time,” Begley said. “It will make summer all that much sweeter.”
Brendan Sullivan, a 31-year-old student in Arlington, Massachusetts, said he had hoped for more snow.
“I’m a little disappointed it’s not crazier,” Sullivan said. “I wouldn’t mind if it got worse. It would be exciting.”
Significant flooding was reported in coastal communities south of Boston, including Scituate, the state police said.
Sustained winds in the area might hit 40 miles per hour (64 kph), though gusts as high as 78 mph (126 kph) were recorded on the island of Nantucket, off Massachusetts, where police said homes and businesses had lost power.
Some 34,700 customers across the storm-hit region were without power, according to local utilities, with the bulk of the outages on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and outlying islands.
Massachusetts’ Pilgrim nuclear power plant powered down on Tuesday after lines allowing it to transmit electricity went down, officials said.
The United Nations headquarters gave itself a day off on Tuesday. East Coast schools, including New York City – the nation’s largest public school system, serving 1 million students – shut down.
Jury selection for the coming trial of the accused Boston Marathon bomber was halted until Thursday due to the storm.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Benkoe, James Dalgleish, Scott DiSavino, Sebastien Malo and Tiffany Wu in New York, Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia, Elizabeth Barber in Somerville, Massachusetts, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Louise Ireland and Howard Goller)
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