Another snowstorm hits Northeast

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Snow swirls up East Coast, leaving bitter cold

By BOB SALSBERG
Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Snow blowers whirred and shovels scraped across sidewalks on Wednesday as the Northeast started cleaning up from a winter storm that swirled up the coast, creating blizzard conditions on Cape Cod, disrupting government work in Washington and leaving behind bitter cold that sapped fuel supplies.

The huge storm stretched from Kentucky to New England but hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. Snow began falling at midmorning Tuesday in Philadelphia and dumped as much as 14 inches by Wednesday morning, with New York seeing almost as much. Manalapan, N.J., had the highest snowfall reading with nearly 16 inches.

The storm, which dropped more than a foot of snow in parts of Massachusetts, largely spared Boston and areas west and north of the city, which got about 4 inches. But it was slow-going on roads elsewhere including New Jersey, where speed limits were reduced on the turnpike, and the New York metropolitan area, where authorities cautioned motorists about black ice. Commuters in Philadelphia and New York packed early trains or spent hours inching along roads in swirling darkness to get home the night before.

The New Yorkers and Bostonians who normally swarm Cape Cod in fishing hats or bikinis in July and August wouldn't recognize it this week. A blizzard warning through Wednesday afternoon kept business brisk at Aubuchon Hardware in Sandwich, where salt and snow shovels were popular.

"The flow of customers is pretty steady, but everyone waits until the worst of the storm to start worrying," manager Jeff Butland said.

Boston and Philadelphia officials ordered schools closed Wednesday, but in New York City, the nation's largest public school system remained open. Schools also were closed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, upstate New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. Federal workers in Washington who got a snow day Tuesday were getting a two-hour delay on Wednesday.

About 3,000 commercial flights were canceled Tuesday into and out of some of the nation's busiest airports, including in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, where Logan Airport advised passengers to expect extremely limited domestic service at least through Wednesday morning. About 1,400 flights were canceled nationwide Wednesday, according to according to flight-tracking site flightaware.com.

Melody Martinez, 23, who was heading home to Miami after visiting her mother in New York, went to LaGuardia Airport, hoping to catch her 9:10 a.m. flight Wednesday, which was canceled. She initially was told she couldn't get another flight until Thursday.

"I thought, `Oh, no!'" said Martinez. "I have to go back to work tomorrow."

Martinez, who works in retail and attends Florida International University, eventually lucked out.

"Thank God I was able to get on a flight today," she said. She'd have to hang around the airport until 3 p.m., but she was still "very relieved."

Amtrak told passengers on its busiest line, the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, to expect fewer trains. Lines serving Harrisburg, Pa., and Albany, N.Y., also were slowed.

The storm put a damper on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's inauguration, forcing the cancellation of a Tuesday evening gala on Ellis Island. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick postponed his annual State of the State address, saying he was worried about guests trying to get to the statehouse.

On I-95, one of the nation's busiest highways, traffic was bumper to bumper Tuesday evening north of New York City, where some people simply gave up and tried to navigate side streets, creating another traffic jam in suburban New Rochelle.

"I just want to get to the Bronx," Peter Neuwens said. "It's a big place. Why can't I get there?"

The storm was a conventional one that developed off the coast and moved its way up the Eastern Seaboard, pulling in cold air from the Arctic. Unlike the epic freeze of two weeks ago, it was not caused by a kink in the polar vortex, the winds that circulate around the North Pole.

Nonetheless, bone-chilling temperatures settled in across the Northeast on Wednesday. Temperatures were in the single digits in many places and not expected to rise out of the teens.

The newest wave of cold air helped to deplete fuel supplies and send prices for propane and natural gas to record highs. Higher natural gas prices also are leading to sharply higher wholesale electricity prices as power utilities snap up gas at almost any price to run power plants to meet higher-than-normal winter demand.

Propane users will get pinched the most. Those who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their tanks could be paying $100 to $200 more per fill-up than a month ago. Homeowners who use natural gas and electricity will see higher heating bills because they'll use more fuel. But prices won't rise dramatically because utilities buy only a small portion of the fuel at the elevated prices.

The storm was blamed for at least one death in Maryland, after a car fishtailed into the path of a tractor-trailer on a snow-covered road about 50 miles northwest of Baltimore and the car's driver was ejected. Police said the storm might have claimed more lives: A preliminary investigation showed wet conditions played a role in a two-vehicle crash that killed two people in Prince George's County, Md., and a tractor-trailer that jackknifed on Interstate 81 in Frederick County, Va., ran off the highway and hit a tree, killing the driver.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Paige Sutherland in Boston, Jim Fitzgerald in New Rochelle, N.Y., Jonathan Fahey in New York, Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., and Jessica Gresko in Washington and AP Videographer Joseph Frederick in New York.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Another snowstorm hits the urban Northeast

By KATHY MATHESON and MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A swirling storm with the potential for more than a foot of snow clobbered the mid-Atlantic and the urban Northeast on Tuesday, grounding thousands of flights, closing government offices in the nation's capital and making a mess of the evening commute.

The storm stretched 1,000 miles between Kentucky and Massachusetts but hit especially hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston, creating a perilous ride home for millions of motorists.

The snow came down harder and faster than many expected. Forecasters said some places could get 1 to 2 inches an hour, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. A blizzard warning was posted for parts of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod.

Late in the afternoon, highways in the New York metropolitan area were jammed, and blowing snow tripled or even quadrupled drive times.

"I just want to get to the Bronx," motorist Peter Neuwens lamented. "It's a big place. Why can't I get there?"

In Jersey City, N.J., Stanley Gaines, wearing a thin jacket and huddling beneath an overhang as snow stung his face, said he had been stuck for more than an hour waiting for a ride home from an appointment at a Veterans Affairs clinic.

"I'm waiting on anything I can get: a taxi, a shuttle, a bus," Gaines said, squinting to read the destination on an approaching bus in near white-out conditions. "I didn't really pay attention to the weather this morning because there was no snow on the ground, and now - this!"

In White Plains, N.Y., Anthony Schirrone pulled over to scrape snow from his windshield.

"I just did this five minutes ago," he said. "But it's coming down too fast."

The storm was blamed for at least one death - that of a driver in Maryland whose car fishtailed into the path of a tractor-trailer on a snow-covered road about 50 miles northwest of Baltimore.

Forecasters said the storm could bring 10 to 14 inches of snow to Philadelphia and southern New England and up to a foot in New York City, to be followed by bitter cold as arctic air from Canada streams in. Washington was expecting 4 to 8 inches.

This one was a conventional storm that developed off the coast and moved its way up the Eastern Seaboard, pulling in cold air from the arctic. Unlike the epic freeze of two weeks ago, it was not caused by a kink in the polar vortex, the winds that circulate around the North Pole.

Pennsylvania's Transportation Department said it had already blown through more than half of its $189 million winter weather budget.

"Lots of nuisance storms this season have meant that PennDOT crews have been plowing and treating roads more frequently this winter," spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said.

This second fierce blast of winter weather is sapping fuel supplies in many regions in the U.S. and sending prices for propane and natural gas to record highs.

Customers who heat with natural gas or electricity probably won't see dramatically higher prices, in part because utilities typically buy their fuel under longer-term contracts at set prices.

But propane customers who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their tanks could be paying $100 to $200 more per fill-up than they did a month ago.

About 3,000 airline flights Tuesday were canceled. More than 1,000 scheduled for Wednesday were called off as well.

Schools up and down the East Coast stayed closed for an extra day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday or sent students home early.

The rush to get home early by many workers was evident in Philadelphia, where commuter trains were packed. Federal employees in Washington were also given the day off.

The storm put a damper on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's inauguration, forcing the cancellation of an evening party on Ellis Island. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick postponed his annual State of the State address, while the Philadelphia Flyers postponed their Tuesday night hockey game.

Standing in Philadelphia's LOVE Park with snow swirling around her, visitor Jenn Byrne of Portland, Ore., said the nasty weather put a crimp in her plans to do a "giant walking tour" of the city. But she vowed to soldier on, taking cabs instead of trudging. She wasn't wearing snow boots.

"I'll keep going. Just the means of transportation will change a bit," Byrne said.

Others shrugged off the snow as well.

In Herndon, Va., where voters were casting ballots in a special election that was likely to determine control of the state Senate, Earlene Coleman said she felt obligated to go to the polls: "It only made sense to come out and do my duty."

Construction worker Tony Cockrell, stopping for coffee at a Hagerstown, Md., gas station, said he planned to continue driving to work sites in western Maryland and northern Virginia to supervise the installation of insulation in building projects.

"If you don't work, you don't get paid," he said, adding that deep cold is good for business. "We're trying to get stuff insulated so it doesn't freeze up."

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Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald in Westchester County, N.Y., Samantha Henry in Jersey City, N.J., Matt Moore in Philadelphia, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., Matthew Barakat in Herndon, Va., and Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.