Utility crews pushed through deep drifting snow, fallen trees and downed power lines Saturday to restore electricity to more than a million homes and businesses that lost power a day earlier as a slow-moving winter storm pounded the region with heavy snow, rain and hurricane-force winds.
The masive storm disturbed air and land traffic -- leaving motorists stranded on the New York State Thruway for hours -- and claimed at least three lives, including one in Central Park. And now the cleanup begins.
Snowfall amounts varied throughout the Northeast, but nearly every state was left to deal with the fallout of powerful, gusting winds that created near-blizzard conditions in some areas that have faced three strong storms this month.
Areas to the south dealt with the third heavy snowfall this month. Monroe, N.Y., received 31 inches, and New York City got 20.9 inches in Central Park, pushing the February total to 36.9 and making it the snowiest month in the city's history. The previous high monthly total recorded in Central Park was 30.5 inches in March 1896, and the previous high for the month of February was 27.9 in 1934.
Friday's storm also made February the snowiest month ever for New Brunswick, N.J.; it has gotten 37 inches so far. This had already been the snowiest winter for Philadelphia and Atlantic City, N.J., before the latest storm dropped another 4 to 5 inches by midmorning Friday.
Power failures were severe and widespread, ranging from more than 330,000 in New Hampshire, to over 200,000 in Connecticut and New York and more than 100,000 in Maine and Massachusetts at the storm's peak. The Long Island Power Authority had restored all power to its customers by Saturday morning. Jersey Central Power & Light Company only had about 500 customers left without electricity. And New Jersey's largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, reported only scattered outages, primarily in the northern portions of the state.
The situation was more dire in Westchester County, for Consolidated Edison reported more than 50,000 customers were affected by the storm. The company has restored power to about 26,000, but downed power lines and fallen trees have hampered their efforts to return power to the other 24,000 customers.
The highest wind reported was 91 mph off Portsmouth, N.H. -- well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts also hit 60 mph or more in Long Island.
New York's Ulster County, a region the size of Rhode Island wedged between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River, took a pounding.
Art Snyder, director of emergency management for Ulster County, said the primary utility, Central Hudson, faced its largest storm in its 100-year history.
"About 30,000 customers, or about 39 percent of their customer base, are without power,'' he said.
The stormy weather affected all forms of travel. More than 1,000 flights were canceled and bus service across northern New Jersey was knocked out. State troopers used snowmobiles to reach motorists stranded for hours on an eastern New York highway. By Saturday morning, the Port Authority says everything -- roads, bridges, tunnels and mass transit -- was pretty much back to normal.
There are still scattered cancellations at airports, however, so make sure you check with your carrier before heading out.
About 1,000 flights were canceled in Boston, Philadelphia and the New York area, according to the Air Transport Association.
Thousands of schools were closed, including in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg acquiesced after vowing to keep them open.
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