‘Historic’ snow strands countless in Mid-Atlantic
WASHINGTON (AP) – Planes were grounded, trains stood still and Greyhound buses weren’t rolling in the Mid-Atlantic region on Sunday, leaving stranded travelers wondering when they’ll be able to escape the icy, gray mess created by a major snowstorm.
Hundreds of thousands of homes were without power with temperatures below freezing all day, and utilities warned it could be days before electricity is restored to everyone. Plows had scraped down to bare pavement on some main thoroughfares while not touching streets in other areas buried by 2 feet or more.
For many in the nation’s capital, meanwhile, Monday will be another day to dig out. Federal agencies that employ 230,000 will be closed, and many school districts across the region were giving students a snow day. For stranded out-of-towners, however, the thought of extending the weekend by a day wasn’t much to smile about.
Joel Jones of Durham, N.C., said he was on a bus from Baltimore on Friday. When he arrived in Washington, the rest of the trip was canceled. He walked to Union Station to get a train, where he has remained, sleeping on chairs.
“I’m starting to worry because I take insulin,” said the 41-year-old, who has diabetes. “I got enough for like one more shot, so I have enough until tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll get on the bus in the morning.”
The National Weather Service called the storm “historic” and reported a foot of snow in parts of Ohio and 2 feet or more in Washington, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia got closer to 3 feet.
Many roads reopened but officials continued to warn residents that highways were still icy, a remnant from the storm President Barack Obama called “Snowmageddon.”
In Washington, the sun was finally shining Sunday and the sounds of shovels could be heard on streets. In contrast to Saturday, when people were frolicking on the barren streets, thoughts turned Sunday to cleanup.
The snow snapped tree limbs onto power lines, and several roofs collapsed under the weight.
Making matters worse, the weather service issued a storm watch for the Washington area Tuesday, saying there was potential for another 5 inches or more of snow. Forecasters expect highs in the low- to mid-30s for the next few days, though sunshine on Monday should help melt some of the snow, said meteorologist Bryan Jackson.
Some people without electricity worried whether the power would return in time for Sunday night’s Super Bowl kickoff – though it was an afterthought for others just trying to stay warm.
Julia Nickles-Bryan and her husband, Charles Bryan, were more focused on keeping their twin 7-year-old daughters warm inside their Baltimore home – where the thermostat read 47 degrees. All they had for heat was a gas stove, gas water heater and a fire in the fireplace.
“We’re basically camping,” Nickles-Bryan said.
Bill McKenzie, 42, a government contractor from San Antonio, Texas, was staying at a hotel near BWI Airport in Elkridge, Md., when the snow hit. He had planned to watch the Super Bowl with friends in the area, but the storm made that impossible. He spent Saturday at a sports bar next to his hotel and was back for much of the day Sunday to watch the game.
“It’s a godsend,” McKenzie said. “If this place wasn’t here, we’d all be starving to death.”
In Philadelphia, 28.5 inches of snow fell during the storm, just shy of the record 30.7 inches during a January 1996 blizzard. Snow totals were even higher to the west in Pennsylvania, with 31 inches recorded in Upper Strasburg and 30 inches in Somerset.
Almost 18 inches was recorded at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which had canceled all flights. That’s the fourth-highest storm total for the city, and airport officials haven’t decided when flights would resume. At nearby Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the record was shattered with 32 inches. Some flights there have resumed.
At Reagan National Airport, 59-year-old Gwen Dawkins was trying to get back to Detroit. She was supposed to leave Saturday but still hadn’t Sunday afternoon because of delays and cancellations. And she said there was “no way we’re getting out of here tonight.”
“You’ve got a whole city held captive here,” she said. “They were very ill-prepared.”
Authorities say most public transportation in Philadelphia has resumed. In Pittsburgh, bus service restarted but light-rail wasn’t running. Washington’s Metro trains were to be limited Monday to underground rails, and its buses were going to operate on a very limited basis.
In Mount Lebanon, a suburb south of Pittsburgh, Robb and Meredith Hartlage were again trying to clear the sidewalk in front of their house.
“We did a couple hours yesterday. I would say about four hours mixed with sledding,” said Robb Hartlage, 40, who said he’s not too old to play in the snow. He acknowledged, however, that the shoveling was hard work.
“I made some ‘old man’ noises when I got out of bed,” he said.