A blizzard ripped through the U.S. Northeast, dumping record amounts of snow in parts of New England, killing at least seven people, blacking out more than half a million and stalling travel from New Jersey to Maine while sparing New York City from much disruption.
In Hamden, Connecticut, 40 inches (102 centimeters) of snow fell, while Boston had 21.8 inches early today, according to the National Weather Service. About 613,000 customers from New York to Maine had no power, utilities said.
“It is going to be a long go but let’s be patient with each other,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news briefing. He said snowplows will stand down at 6 p.m. to give drivers a rest. Many have been working since yesterday to keep streets passable, while normal traffic was banned.
Governor Deval Patrick ended a ban on normal traffic on Nantucket Island and roads west of Interstate 91, a north-south highway crossing the western part of the state between Connecticut and Vermont. He said roads in the rest of the state would be opened to travel at 4 p.m. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy plans to lift a travel ban at that time in his state.
The blinding snow, driven by hurricane-force winds, trapped about 150 cars on Long Island roads and forced 40 people to take shelter there. Several coastal Massachusetts towns, including Hull, Marshfield, Weymouth, Scituate, Kingston and Salisbury, were at least partly evacuated ahead of tidal flooding.
Wind gusts topped hurricane strength from parts of Long Island to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with an 83 mile (133 kilometer) an hour burst reported on Cuttyhunk Island.
Damage was slight in New York City, where Central Park had 11.4 inches of snow and La Guardia Airport got 12.1 inches, according to AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Skies had cleared over New York by midday and snow had ended in Boston. The Associated Press reported six deaths from the storm, from Ontario to Rhode Island, while a seventh occurred in Boston, when a 12-year-old boy sought warmth in a snowbound family car and was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, WCVB-TV said on its website.
A woman clearing snow was hit and killed by a motorist who didn’t stop, Malloy said at a news briefing. He said the number of stranded cars and trucks on roads in the state was beyond counting, despite his order yesterday banning normal traffic on highways.
“One of the biggest problems we are facing is stalled automobiles,” Malloy said. “We are trying to dig them out and tow them away.”
“I still want to urge residents to stay off the roads if at all possible,” the governor said in a statement. “The longer we can keep traffic out of town centers and off of our highways, the more effective our recovery effort will be.”
The road shutdown in Massachusetts helped the state keep roads passable during the storm, Patrick said.
“It worked here there is no doubt about it,” Patrick said. “This is not something that one does lightly.”
Portland, Maine, received 31.9 inches of snow, topping the old record of 27.1 inches set in 1979, said John Cannon, a weather service meteorologist in Gray, Maine. There was still light snow falling, so it is possible the final tally may rise.
The storm will move away from the East Coast and snow will end in Maine before nightfall, said Dan Pydynowski, an AccuWeather meteorologist. Blizzard warnings came down at 1 p.m. for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and will end between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. for the coast of Maine, he said.
New York’s Long Island had lower winds than forecast, said John Bruckner, president for power provider National Grid Plc. Almost 7,600 homes and businesses were without electricity by midday. Restoration will probably be completed within 24 hours, Wendy Ladd, a company spokeswoman said by telephone.
Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shut down safely during the storm when it lost its outside power supply, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
The 680-megawatt plant remained shut early today, with emergency generators providing back-up power while utility crews worked to restore the system, Carol Wrightman, a spokeswoman for Entergy, said by telephone. More than 390,000 customers of Massachusetts utilities were blacked out, while as many as 175,000 in Rhode Island and 37,000 in Connecticut also lost service, officials said.
Road travel also was restricted in Rhode Island, while train and bus services were suspended there and in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Stalled rail and air travel resumed in some locations, mainly in New Jersey and New York, by mid-morning.
In a news briefing this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Long Island was the hardest area of the state, with Nassau County receiving between 12 and 24 inches of snow and Suffolk County more than 30 inches in some areas.
“Suffolk has sustained significant damage and significant hardship as a result of the storm,” Cuomo said.
About 150 people were stranded in vehicles last night, including on the Long Island Expressway. “We have no reports of fatalities, but that was a complication for clearing of the snow,” Cuomo said.
He said he had directed some of the state’s utility crews to Connecticut and Massachusetts to help restore services in those states.
New York’s Metro North Railroad service resumed on some lines after 11 a.m., according to a statement on the commuter system’s website. Parts of the New Haven line remained closed as workers removed as much as 36 inches of snow.
The Long Island Rail Road has begun restoring service on its Ronkonkoma, Huntington, Babylon and Port Washington branches, according to a statement by the commuter railroad.
Rail service between Boston and New York, which was halted during the storm, was shut today, Amtrak said.
In New Jersey, NJ Transit restored northern and central New Jersey bus service at 8 a.m., but some train service remained halted.
“It looks like we’ve dodged a bullet,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today at a news briefing. “We think we’re in great shape. We were lucky.”
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
Boston’s Logan International Airport was closed because of the snow, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.
At least 5,015 flights were canceled yesterday and today across the U.S., according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking company. Boston’s Logan has the most flights scrubbed today at 421, with New York’s John F. Kennedy at 344; Newark’s Liberty International Airport at 318 and La Guardia at 245, as of 10 a.m. East Coast time. American Airlines expects to resume some flights into Boston and Hartford tonight, according to an e-mailed statement.
The storm arrived days after the 35th anniversary of the “Blizzard of ’78,” which buried Boston in a then-record 27.1 inches of snow and killed 99 people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Two February blizzards, in 2003 and 2011, surpassed that epic storm’s snowfall, both by less than an inch.
Boston had 21.8 inches by midday, which makes this the sixth-heaviest storm in the city in records going back 100 years, said Bill Simpson, a weather service meteorologist. Providence received 17 inches, tied for number eight; the Rhode Island capital got a record 28.6 inches in the 1978 storm.