Tri-State Digs Out

Accumulations topped 11 inches in NYC; Eastern Long Island gets record 27.5 inches

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It was back to work and school (for NYC kids at least) Monday morning  as millions of East Coast commuters dealt with slick roads and icy sidewalks and after a weekend winter storm dropped record snowfall and interrupted holiday shopping and travel.

    Airport delays eased and travelers stranded by canceled flights were finally getting off the ground, but there were worries that weekend problems could cause ripples that would be felt during the Christmas rush.

    The storm crept up the coast on Saturday and Sunday, walloping states from the mid-Atlantic to New England, causing widespread power outages and treacherous driving conditions. The weather was blamed for at least seven deaths, including a snowmobile driver who crashed head-on into a horse-drawn buggy in Pennsylvania's Amish country.

    Airports in the East that were jammed up this weekend were working their way back to normal. On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration was reporting that nearly all major airports on the East Coast had average flight delays of less than 15 minutes.

    Still, three major airports in the New York City area were expecting an unusually busy holiday travel week made worse by the cancellation of 1,200 flights.

    Adam Reker was at LaGuardia Airport, trying to get home to Denver after having flights canceled on both Saturday and Sunday.

    "Now they're trying to make me stay until Wednesday," he said. "It's a nightmare."

    Reker has been spending his extra days in New York seeing some sights, but mostly was just trying to get home.

    "Lot of pacing around in my hotel room, and about six hours a day spent on the phone with the airlines and my travel agent," he said.

    In Raleigh, N.C., airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said agents were extremely busy rebooking flights.

    "We have been very busy. We are seeing some full flights going up to New York," she said.

    Many schools and offices were closed Monday, making traffic a little lighter on slow-moving roads and lessening the strain on beleaguered transit systems. Highways were largely clear, but secondary roads were treacherous.

    In Washington, federal agencies were closed Monday and bus service was running behind schedule, but the Metro finally was able to open all 86 of its rail stations. Subways had been limited to underground stations for two days.

    In New York City, the Long Island Rail Road urged its riders to allow extra time; several passengers said the ride itself was fine, but getting to the train was a problem.

    "The roads are a mess," loan officer Sophia White, 42, said Monday morning after she took the train from Queens to Manhattan, en route to Jersey City, N.J. "The plow truck came through but it's very icy still."

    J. Silhan worked an overnight shift at the Gurney's Inn oceanfront resort in Montauk, N.Y., after spending all day Sunday plowing and digging out people's houses with his father-in-law.

    "I've been up 24 hours," Silhan said Monday morning. "I'm going to go crash" — hastily emphasizing that he meant "sleep."

    Even as some workers returned to the job Monday, their children were being given the day off.

    Philadelphia's public and Roman Catholic schools were closed to give the city another day to clear streets and sidewalks. Schools also were closed Monday in Baltimore, Roanoke, Va., most of Washington's suburbs and many Long Island towns, among other areas. Washington, D.C., public schools were already scheduled to be on winter break Monday.

    In New York, public school children had to grin and bear it. -- and go to class.

    Closures around the city include the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and New York Aquarium.  Many stores and restaurants are planning to open on what is one of the last shopping days before Christmas, but it is wise to call ahead before venturing out.

    Garbage and recycling pick-up is also not scheduled to resume until at least Tuesday. 

    When the Monday rush hour commute began, the MTA said it is continuing to remove snow and ice from tracks and stations, but delays and some service changes could be expected. On the LIRR service was suspended between Ronkonkoma and Greenport because of weather related problems, and shuttle buses were being provided Monday morning.

    MTA Service Advisories
    LIRR Advisories

    On the national rails, Amtrak canceled some trains in the East on Monday because of the storm and warned that long-distance trains to the South and West faced substantial delays.

    Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman says the runways are clear at the area airports and conditions are safe for takeoff, but the airlines have chosen to cancel most flights leaving New York.  In the past day, some 800 flights have been canceled.

    Coleman says he expects airlines may return to normal service Sunday evening.

    Airport info

    Around New York City accumulations reached 11 inches.  The brunt of the storm hit Long Island, with nearly 2 feet recorded in Upton. Crews clearing roads early Sunday reported whiteout conditions, said Lt. Robert P. Iberger of the Southampton police. The slow and steady storm gave southern New Jersey its highest single-storm snowfall totals in nearly four years.

    The storm could be the worst the city has seen since about 26 inches fell in Central Park in February 2006, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Maloit said. 

    On Long Island, crews tried to clear streets early Sunday in whiteout conditions, and officials in Suffolk and Nassau County asked drivers to stay off the roads. Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot has declared a snow emergency, prohibiting non-emergency travel there.

    Patchogue took the cake however, with the most snow in the region. The Eastern Long Island community had the area's highest official snowfall — a record 27.5 inches — and drifts considerably higher.

    Public Works Superintendent Joseph Dean says "there's too much of it to leave" along the roads. The village is now reviewing its options.

    Across the region, police reported scores of accidents due to slippery roads and poor visibility.

    In New Jersey, a bus got stuck on snow-covered railroad tracks in Pennsauken and was hit by a train. The 26 passengers were evacuated from the bus 10 minutes before the crash, and the only reported injury was a minor one suffered by the train's engineer, NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said.

    As the snow is cleared, city officials are urged people to be safe and to check in on those who might be older, sick or need extra help during the storm.
     
    *NYC Office of Emergency Management
    *NJ OEM
    *Nassau County OEM
    *Suffolk County OEM

    If you're hitting the roads, remember you can dial 511 for traffic and travel and transit info. 

    Find out more from NYSDOT
     

    The storm came on the last weekend before Christmas, and merchants feared they'd take a hit as the storm blew through, shutting people indoors. Crowds were light in malls, but retailers hoped people who stayed home on Sunday would do some last-minute shopping on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    A plow truck driver was found dead in his truck with the motor running Sunday on Long Island, but it was unclear whether his death was related to the storm, police said.

    Black ice will be a concern Monday night after sunshine and "a little bit of melting," said Richard Castro, of the Weather Service in Upton, N.Y.

    Thomas Standers, of New Rochelle, N.Y., said he made good use of time spent trapped at home. He was feeding dozens of Christmas cards into a mailbox at the train station in Pelham early Monday.

    "If we hadn't been stuck inside all weekend, these would never have gotten done," he said. "Now we have a fighting chance they'll get there by Christmas."

    As always, check back with NBCNewYork.com for constant updates on severe weather alerts, winter storm watches, flight delays and school closing. And send your winter weather pictures to isee@nbcnewyork.com.