jueves, 27 de enero de 2011

Yet Another Storm Buries the Northeast

  A limousine, unable to drive uphill going west on 57th Street in Manhattan, was pushed back onto 6th Avenue by passersby after midnight on Thursday.

The storm, appearing as a giant white smudge over the Northeast on radar maps, knocked out power to half a million people in and around Washington, though it reserved its heaviest snowfall for New York City and the surrounding area.

Nineteen inches of heavy, wet snow fell on Central Park, tied for the highest total in the region and only an inch less than the 20 inches that paralyzed the city a month ago, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of Connecticut and New Jersey received nearly as much, and snowfalls totaled at least a foot from Boston to Philadelphia.

Around Washington, where downed power lines left swaths of the region in darkness, the precipitation began as rain on Wednesday, then froze. Commutes on the roadways took as long as 12 hours as drivers slipped and got stuck.
“Conditions got very slick, very fast,” said John D. Lisle, the spokesman for the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation. “Plows had to battle traffic to get the salt down.”

After hours in traffic, people began abandoning cars, and some actually slept in them, according to reports. In Philadelphia, 150 buses were stuck through part of the night, with passengers spending the night on some of them, according to Heather Redfern, a spokeswoman for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. As of Thursday morning, about 40 were still stuck.

New York City schools and offices were closed. Bus service was knocked out in most of the region through the morning rush as hobbled train systems struggled to absorb the overload, though bus service was slowly restored as the morning wore on. At the airports, delays and cancellations were the order of the morning, though there, too, things were clearing up by noon.

The storm created a fresh sense of snow fatigue in a region that has been unusually battered. Yet in New York City, where the slow municipal response to the Dec. 26 blizzard became a black eye for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and transit officials, things were not as dire as they could have been. Mr. Bloomberg said on the radio Thursday morning that all primary roads had been plowed and some secondary streets were beginning to be cleared.

By suspending bus service in the city, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority avoided a rerun of the December storm, when hundreds of buses got stuck in the snow, blocking plows and other traffic. And unlike a month ago, there did not immediately appear to be any riders stuck overnight on disabled subway trains.

At a 10 a.m. news briefing, Mr. Bloomberg said that while several dozen ambulances got stuck in the snow, relief ambulances arrived quickly to ferry the ailing to hospitals. And while the 911 system was flooded with calls and dispatches were slowed, “no calls ever remained in a queue,” the mayor said.

This is a dramatically different situation from the December blizzard, when ambulance delays were linked to deaths, hundreds of ambulances got stuck in the snow and 911 calls were not answered for hours. The debacle led the city to adopt a 15-point snow emergency management plan. Mr. Bloomberg said he expected every street in the city to have been plowed by Friday morning and urged drivers to stay off the roads, lest they be towed by the city at their owners’ expense if they get stuck.

The cancellation of school meant that thousands of city high school students scheduled to take the state Regents exam could not do so, but the mayor said: “That’s a problem for the state. We’ll get to it later.”

Even before the storm started walloping the region overnight, the National Weather Service had estimated that more than 37 inches of snow — almost double the winter average — had fallen in Central Park this winter. The overnight storms broke January snowfall records for Central Park, Newark, LaGuardia Airport, Bridgeport and Islip, the Weather Service said Thursday morning.

In addition to the 19 inches in Central Park, the heaviest totals included 19 inches in Clifton, N.J.; 18.5 inches in North Haven, Conn.; 18.9 at Newark airport; and 16.5 inches in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island, the Weather Service said.

In Massachusetts, hundreds of schools were closed and yet another commute was snarled by snow. According to the National Weather Service nearly 10 inches of snow fell at Logan Airport as of 7 a.m. Areas south and west of Boston saw the most accumulation, with Milford, Mass., getting 16 inches and North Attleboro, Mass., 13.

Two men had to be rescued from a car inside the parking garage of a Lynn, Mass., commercial building after its roof collapsed early Thursday morning. Both men were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with minor injuries, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Across the Eastern Seaboard, snow — and snow budgets — are far above the average for this time of year, but there is still plenty of winter left.

“I guess the average for the year for the Greater Boston area is around 40 inches, and now we’re at about 60,” Mr. Judge said. “We’re about halfway there to get to the record, which is really scary when you think about it.”

The weather even played havoc with President Obama’s schedule: After returning to Washington from a quick trip to Wisconsin on Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s motorcade spent an hour in rush hour traffic. He was supposed to return to the White House by helicopter, the Associated Press reported, but Marine One was grounded because of the weather.

The federal government opened two hours late and the D.C. government was closed. The Metro system was operating without delays. Passengers spent the night in closed airports, and though many flights were not leaving on Thursday morning, Reagan National was open, though Dulles was working with one runway.

A Democratic Party worker, Jen Bluestein, said she spent so long in traffic — three hours on what normally would be 15 minutes driving from Connecticut and L Street downtown to Alexandria, Va. — that her iPhone died on the ride.

“Ever seen a compulsive political operative trapped in a slow moving vehicle with no phone or e-mail?” she said. “Not pretty.”

Katie Zezima contributed reporting from Boston.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 27, 2011

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Port Authority had closed La Guardia airport early on Thursday morning. It was Teterboro Airport that was closed, not La Guardia.

Dominican Republic Attorney