Northeasterners scraped and shoveled Wednesday after a snowstorm grounded flights, shuttered schools and buried roads with a surprising amount of snow, leaving biting cold in its wake. The atmosphere was particularly frosty in New York City, where some residents complained that plowing was spotty and schools were open while children elsewhere in the region stayed home.
Allison Pennell said not having a snow day for New York City’s 1.1 million students was “a hard pill to swallow” for her two children, a fifth-grader and a 10th-grader. “They were very cranky and bitter, but they had to suck it up,” she said.
The storm stretched from Kentucky to New England but hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. Snow began falling at midmorning Tuesday in Philadelphia and dumped as much as 14 inches by Wednesday, with New York City seeing almost as much, before tapering off.
Temperatures were in the single digits in many places Wednesday and not expected to rise out of the teens. It was as low as nine degrees in Washington, D.C., seven in New York City and Boston – and in Watertown, N.Y., it hit 37 below.
The heavy snow that wrecked Tuesdays night’s commute for millions in the Mid-Atlantic made driving treacherous for most of the day on Wednesday in New England
Eighteen inches fell south of Boston, and the AAA received 50 percent more service calls than usual. In Hanover, Mass., it took Kristen Regan two hours to clear her driveway.
“It’s light and fluffy and it just moves, but unfortunately when the wind blows, and it gets in your face, it gives the rosy cheeks,” she said.
The snowstorm was the second for New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, and it quickly became one of the first flashpoints of his weeks-old tenure. He initially defended the city’s response, saying the storm caused a worse-than-expected headache when it ramped up at rush hour.
When asked why some Manhattan avenues, including in the wealthy Upper East Side neighborhood, still were covered in snow when a Brooklyn thoroughfare was plowed clear to the pavement, the mayor at first said that the cleanup effort was equitable and robust.
Later he said in a statement that he thought “more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side.”
De Blasio said 30 more vehicles and nearly 40 more sanitation workers had been sent to the area to finish the cleanup.
Nor were all parents happy about the decision to keep New York City’s schools open. One parent, Pamela Murphy Jennings, said her two children navigated snowy sections of tony Madison and Park avenues to get to their public schools on the Upper East Side.
“Children have to walk to city bus stops and cross these streets to get here,” she said. “Cars are sliding on roads. If there was any day to close schools, this was the day.”
Schoolchildren had the day off elsewhere, including in Boston, Philadelphia and many parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, upstate New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. Federal workers in Washington got a two-hour delay in their work days Wednesday after a day off Tuesday because of the snow.
In downtown Jersey City, N.J., Kerline Celestin, a certified nurse’s aide, waited for a bus Wednesday to head home to another part of town after she was stuck at work overnight due to the storm. The temperature was in the single digits, with the wind chill below zero.
“To tell you the truth, I feel like I didn’t want to be outside,” she said.
Maintenance worker William Haskins knocked on doors in downtown Annapolis, Md., to see if anyone needed sidewalks cleaned. His 10-year-old son, Travis, out of school for a snow day, came along with his own shovel and an understanding that profits would be split evenly.
“He was up waiting for me this morning,” his father said.
The storm was blamed for at least one death – a driver was ejected from a car that fishtailed into the path of a tractor-trailer on a snow-covered Maryland road – and might have claimed more lives. Authorities were investigating three suspected weather-related deaths in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County, outside Philadelphia; a preliminary investigation showed weather conditions played a role in a two-vehicle crash that killed two people in Prince George’s County, Md.; and police said the storm may have factored in a deadly tractor-trailer wreck in Frederick County, Va.
While Boston got only about 4 inches of snow, other parts of Massachusetts were socked with as many as 18 inches.
Ram Vyas, owner of Towers Liquor Mart in Weymouth, was shoveling his walkway Wednesday and getting ready for another busy day after the storm dropped about 16 inches of snow on the town, located about 15 miles south of Boston.
“It was very busy before the storm and now it will be busy after the storm,” he said. “A lot of people have the day off from work, so they will be coming in to buy more alcohol, then watch TV, be with their families.”
About 1,400 flights were canceled Wednesday into and out of some of the nation’s busiest airports, including in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, according to according to flight-tracking site flightaware.com. That was down from about 3,000 flights the day before.
Melody Martinez, 23, who was heading home to Miami after visiting her mother in New York, went to LaGuardia Airport, hoping to catch her 9:10 a.m. flight Wednesday, which was canceled. She initially was told she couldn’t get another flight until Thursday.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no!'” said Martinez. “I have to go back to work tomorrow.”
Martinez, who works in retail and attends Florida International University, eventually got lucky.
“Thank God I was able to get on a flight today,” she said.
Amtrak told passengers on its busiest line, the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, to expect fewer trains. Lines serving Harrisburg, Pa., and Albany, N.Y., also were slowed.
The storm was a conventional one that developed off the coast and moved its way up the Eastern Seaboard, pulling in cold air from the Arctic. Unlike the epic freeze of two weeks ago, it was not caused by a kink in the polar vortex, the winds that circulate around the North Pole.
Nonetheless, bone-chilling temperatures settled in across the Northeast on Wednesday.
The newest wave of cold air helped to deplete fuel supplies and send prices for propane and natural gas to record highs. Higher natural gas prices also are leading to sharply higher wholesale electricity prices as power utilities snap up gas at almost any price to run power plants to meet higher-than-normal winter demand.
Propane users will get pinched the most. Those who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their propane tank could be paying $100 to $200 more per fill-up than a month ago. Homeowners who use natural gas and electricity will see higher heating bills because they’ll use more fuel. But prices won’t rise dramatically because utilities buy only a small portion of the fuel at the elevated prices. And if you need to fill up your propane tanks, you may contact a propane tank delivery service.