As winter storm blasts Northeast, 70 percent of US now coated in snow

Snowfall totals from the winter storm are expected to be 2 feet and higher in parts of New England. New York City got 9 inches of the white stuff. Transportation havoc ensues, especially at airports.

Kathy Kmonicek/AP
A New York State Department of Transportation truck plows snow from the Long Island Expressway westbound at Glen Cove Road early Wednesday, Jan. 12. Several inches of snow covered areas throughout Long Island in Old Westbury, N.Y.

New England is now taking the brunt of a powerful winter storm that left New York with nine inches of snow – enough to slow it down but not shut it down.

As the storm moved past eastern Long Island on Wednesday morning, it was intensifying, blasting islands like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with near hurricane-force winds, which were creating large snowdrifts and dangerous driving conditions. The snowfall totals were expected to be as high as 25 to 30 inches in some parts of New England.

“There could be snowdrifts of five to 10 feet,” says Joe Bastardi, chief long-range forecaster at “By tonight, it will be all over except the digging and the ice picking.”

Intense storms have coated much of the United States with snow. As of Tuesday, 69.4 percent of the nation had a layer of the white stuff.

“That is a rarity. It is way above normal,” Mr. Bastardi says.

School closings were widespread in eastern Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and eastern Massachusetts. Public schools in New York City, however, remained open.

The storm wreaked havoc with the nation’s transportation system, especially the airports. According to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates the airports, more than 1,400 flights were canceled in the New York metro area over the past two days, and the airports did not expect to get flights off the ground until Wednesday afternoon. Boston’s Logan International Airport was open, but no flights were operating.

On Wednesday morning, Amtrak said it had suspended service between New York and Boston because of damage to the overhead power system near Sharon, Mass. Commuter train service between New York and Connecticut on the Metro-North Railroad was reduced and in some areas suspended.

New York City seemed to have gotten the streets cleaned up much faster than after the December blizzard. Sanitation trucks, equipped with plows, kept the main avenues plowed through the night. The city had made a “weather declaration” that made the traffic lighter than normal, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference.

The city hired contractors to tackle the snow on smaller streets, where cleanup had taken days after the December storm. The city also deployed an extra 1,000 laborers to shovel entrances to the subways.

“Our goal was just not 'get back to business as usual,' but to have a more effective snow response,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

One effort, he said, included global-positioning devices on the garbage trucks. This helped when one garbage truck got stuck, he said, and more of the devices will be ordered.

Bloomberg said he would offer Suffolk County, N.Y., help plowing out, since the snow was much worse further east. “They sent ambulances when we needed help,” he noted.

Further north in Connecticut, many communities struggled to clear their roads. In Fairfield, Debbie Estock reported mid-Wednesday morning that her block had not been plowed out of the 20 to 26 inches of snow. Ms. Estock, an editor at Yale Robbins Publications in New York, planned to work from home.

“I would think I’ll be to work tomorrow,” Estock said.

Although her road may get plowed, she probably won’t see much melting immediately, says Bastardi, who points out that all the snow on the ground keeps the air temperature cold.

The East Coast will get a break from the snow for about the next two weeks, Bastardi expects. In fact, by next week, rain will help to wash away some of the snow in New York and Boston, he says.

The next round of cold weather could begin later next week. He anticipates a major shot of cold air hitting the midsection of the nation by Jan. 20.

“It may stay below zero all day in Chicago,” he warns.

Although New York and the rest of the East Coast may not get another storm soon, he expects a new winter storm to pummel Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati in the next 10 days. “We have not seen a powerful Ohio Valley storm yet,” he says. “That could be the next area to be hit.”

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