Snowfall totals: why blizzard 2010 didn't bring Northeast to its knees

Snowfall totals in the Northeast were big, but schoolkids were on vacation already, and in many cases their parents had time off from work.

Mel Evans/AP
Pedestrians walk along the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., on Monday. New Jersey was the epicenter of a snowstorm that left big snowfall totals.

The Northeast's great blizzard of 2010 arrived with timing that couldn't have been better or couldn't have been worse – take your pick.

It was a certifiable "snow day," but not in the sense of a serendipitous day off. Schoolkids were on vacation already, and in many cases their parents already had time off from work.

As the snowfall totals piled up, the storm also dampened post-holiday retail sales in the Northeast region and forced many people to adjust travel plans as they returned from visits with family.

But if all that was a disappointment to some residents on the Eastern Seaboard, the timing could be viewed as positive for some of the same reasons: relatively minimal disruption of school and work schedules. It prompted public officials to say "stay home" on a day when that's exactly what millions of people were already doing.

If the storm had arrived seven days later, instead of on Dec. 26, it would have disrupted airports on an even busier travel day – and the region would have had no "blizzard of 2010" on its record books.

Whatever the views on its timing, the storm's impacts were sizable:

• In New Jersey, the storm's epicenter, Acting Governor and Senate President Stephen Sweeney declared a state of emergency. "The most important thing for residents to do today is to stay safe," he said, closing state offices and urging people to check in with elderly neighbors and "look out for each other."

• Three major New York area airports were shut down by the snow and were struggling to reopen Monday afternoon. The Federal Aviation Administration said it expected the John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport to reopen at 6 p.m. According to officials, passengers were being provided blankets and cots, but some passengers said they could not access their checked luggage for clothing or toiletries.

• The storm kept people away from post-holiday sales at malls, but it may have provided a catalyst for some extra online shopping.

• Wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour knocked out power in some places. About 30,000 customers were out in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, especially south of Boston and on Cape Cod, reported utilities. Scattered power outages ranged from Virginia to coastal Maine, which also faced coastal flooding through Monday evening.

• Road traffic was light but snarled and slippery, with even some plow trucks getting stuck. Virginia State Police received up to 3,000 calls for roadside emergencies Sunday alone, including 67 injuries but no fatalities. In North Carolina, the National Guard was activated late Saturday to assist in transportation emergencies.

• Snow accumulation ranged from mild – five inches in parts of North Carolina – to nearly three feet in some areas further north. On Monday, snowfall was giving way to more visibility. But winds remained gusty. For Tuesday and the rest of the week, temperatures were expected to reach highs above freezing. But lows in some places could be about 10 degrees F.

• Although Florida did not get any snow, it is preparing for freezing temperatures as high-pressure winds from the west drive cold air from the north southward. Temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits early Tuesday morning in south Florida, which is expected to threaten fruit and vegetable crops.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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