NEW YORK – A mammoth blizzard that paralyzed Washington and set a single-day snowfall record in New York City gave way Sunday to brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures, enabling millions to dig out and enjoy the winter.
The timing could not have been better: The heaviest snow began falling Friday evening, and tapered off just before midnight Saturday. Millions heeded calls to stay home, enabling road crews to clear snow and ice. Grimy cities were blanketed, making for lovely scenes with unfamiliar terrains.
“It feels like old times when there weren’t any cars,” said Taylor Scheulke, an associate producer at National Geographic television who made a 36-hour time-lapse video of snow piling up outside her Washington home and posted it on YouTube.
The storm dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England. The heaviest official report was 42 inches (106.7 centimetres), in Glengary, West Virginia, but the record accumulations in the nation’s capital and its largest city brought life to a standstill, stranding tens of thousands of travellers and forcing many events to be cancelled.
More than two dozen deaths were blamed on the weather, initially mostly in car crashes, and later while shovelling snow. In Passaic, New Jersey, on Sunday, a mother and her year-old son watching their family shovel snow from the apparent safety of their car died of carbon monoxide poisoning; snow had blocked the tailpipe. Her 3-year-old daughter, also in the car, was in critical condition, The Record reported. A 56-year-old man met a similar fate in Muhlenberg Township in Pennsylvania Saturday night after a passing snowplow buried him in his car.
The storm dropped 26.8 inches (68.07 centimetres) in Central Park, the second-most recorded since 1869 and just short of 26.9 inches (68.3 centimetres) set in February 2006. But the 26.6 inches (67.6 centimetres) that fell on Saturday was the city’s record for a single day.
The travel ban that barred nonemergency vehicles from the roads of New York City was lifted at 7 a.m. Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In Baltimore, a travel ban was also lifted, but some restrictions remain in place.
Washington’s records were less clear. The official 3-day total of 17.8 inches (45.2 centimetres) measured at Reagan National Airport was impossibly short of accumulations recorded elsewhere in the city. An official total of 22.4 inches (56.9 centimetres) landed at the National Zoo, but since some of that fell Friday night, it might not have beat the city’s single-day record of 21 inches (53.3 centimetres), set on Jan. 28, 1922.
The Zoo was making hearts sing in other ways – even though the grounds remained closed through Monday, an online video of its giant panda Tian Tian romping in the snow and making what looked like snow angels got more than 48 million views.
Coastal cities in New Jersey and elsewhere saw some flooding, but as predicted, the impact was nothing like Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Roofs collapsed on a church in Pennsylvania and a historic theatre in Virginia, causing no injuries. The roof also fell on a barn outside Frederick, Maryland, which got a total of 33.5 inches (85.1 centimetres). That one killed some of the cows a farmer had herded inside.
“It kills me because I killed them by putting them in the barn,” Douglas Fink said. “I was trying to protect them, but they probably would have been better off just standing outside.”
The winds reached hurricane-force of 75 mph (120 kph) at Dewey Beach, Delaware, and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, the weather service said. From Virginia to New York, sustained winds topped 30 mph (48 kph) and gusted to around 50 mph (80 kph). What’s more, there were bursts of thunder and lightning.
Complications were still in store for the Monday morning commute. With more than 7,000 weekend flights cancelled, air travel remained messy. But with 30 hours or more to restore power and clear streets after the last flakes fell, millions of people expected to be able to slog back to work.
That didn’t stop the House of Representatives from postponing votes until February, citing the storm’s impact on travel.
Airports in New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore were resuming some service Sunday. The major airlines intended to resume service throughout the region by Monday, though hundreds of flights then have been cancelled. Nearly 12,000 flights were cancelled from Friday through Monday at airports from the northeastern New England states to North Carolina.
In New York, Bruce Springsteen cancelled his Sunday concert at Madison Square Garden, but Broadway shows were resuming on the Great White Way after going dark at the last minute on Saturday.