650,000 without power as blizzard heads out to sea
The snowstorm, a product of two converging weather systems, knocked out power for more than 650,000 customers and prompted the U.S. Postal Service to suspend deliveries in seven states.
Mandatory evacuations were issued Saturday morning for Massachusetts coastal regions near Hull because of flooding concerns, and high winds whipped throughout the region. Authorities also advised residents to leave shoreline areas in Marshfield and Scituate.
Forecasters say the storm is expected to continue swirling across New England with gusts up to 40 mph in cities including Providence, Rhode Island, Hartford, Connecticut and Boston. Most of the heavy snow will taper off later in the afternoon, they said.
Three of New York’s busiest airports resumed limited service Saturday morning. Logan International Airport in Boston and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, remained closed.
“We’re slowly coming back,” said Susan Baer, Port Authority aviation director of New York and New Jersey. “We don’t have every runway open yet and it’s certainly a recovery process, so check with your airline.”
Snowfall in Manhattan reached just under a foot, with heavier accumulations in Long Island, where 27 inches fell in Stony Brook.
But Connecticut saw the most accumulation with up to 38 inches in cities like Milford, while the Massachusetts cities of Worcester and Boston received 27 and 21 inches, respectively, with winds howling up to 75 mph.
It knocked out power to more than 400,000 addresses there, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all power outages, according to the state’s power companies.
Electricity dropped out at a nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, said fire spokesman Ed Bradley, but backup generators sprang into action. It’s not an emergency, he said. Plymouth is 90% in the dark.
Rhode Island may have seen the worst outages relative to its size, with more than 180,000 customers losing power. At 1 million residents, it has only one-sixth of Massachusetts’ population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee ordered all non-emergency vehicles off the streets in an effort to allow snow plows to clear snow-bound roadways.
Snow covers the area from eastern Pennsylvania to Maine, the National Weather Service said. It has turned most everything in sight white. Overnight lows in most of the Northeast were under 20 degrees and likely won’t get above freezing Saturday.
Governors of at least six states have declared states of emergency.
At its height, the storm heaped snow on Connecticut at a frenzied rate of 4 to 5 inches an hour.
But the nor’easter showed some mercy.
Instead of carrying its destructive power further inland the way Superstorm Sandy did in early November, the nor’easter has begun taking its fury off shore, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. But the system continues to sling snow back toward land as it heads out over the Atlantic.
By mid-morning Saturday, the precipitation will have slowed to a flurry, Myers said. The worst of the snow should cease before sunup, but winds will continue to push up dangerous drifts.
The nation’s attention will likely then shift to the plains and mountain states, where blizzards and heavy snows are expected to last into Monday over a region larger than the Northeast but far less populous.
Travel comes to a halt
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island ahead of the storm ordered motorists to stay off the streets under threat of imprisonment and fines — up to a year in jail and $500 in Rhode Island.
Connecticut officially closed all roads Saturday morning, said governor’s office spokesman Andrew Doba.
Emergency and snow clearing vehicles are the only exceptions. Massachusetts’ travel ban will last until at least 4 p.m. Saturday and will not be over until the state’s governor lifts it, according to emergency management spokesman Peter Judge.
Still, the only known loss of life from the storm occurred in a vehicle accident in New York. An 18-year-old woman lost control of her car in the falling snow and struck a 74-year-old man walking near the side of the road, police in Poughkeepsie said. He died in hospital from his injuries.
Hundreds of cars were stranded on the Long Island Expressway after motorists got stuck driving in the snow. They outnumbered the tow trucks and crews deployed in the area for the storm, according to the Suffolk County police.
Rescuers have recovered many, taking them to warm places, but they still have their work cut out, police said.
Rail transportation has come to a virtual halt, with commuter trains running on a patchwork schedule. Nearly 5,000 flights have been canceled to and from the Northeast.
Cities in the most populous section of the country looked like ghost towns, as streets usually bustling with traffic emptied out. Residents followed the pleas by governors and mayors to “basically, stay at home,” as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had advised.
A stroll in the snow
CNN cameras captured images of snow plows roaming the night, clearing roads that the snow began recovering as they passed. iReporter Justin Vieria in New Bedford, Massachusetts, also sent in video of two snow clearers cruising past.
Cabin fever and curiosity drove some residents out of their homes for a stroll. “Boy, do I love going out for walks in the blizzard,” Vieria said.
Dozens of meandering Boston residents converged for a playful snowball fight in an otherwise empty city street.
CNN reporter Ali Velshi was braving wind, sleet, snow and ocean spray to report on the blizzard rolling onto shore in Dennis Port, Massachusetts, when two residents surprised him.
Jim and Garrett — no last names given — had heard there may be a storm surge and went down to the waterfront to check for themselves.
“We expected to see, frankly, a little more surf than is going on here now,” Jim told Velshi. “But the wind and the sleet — it’s really pounding against you.”
Massachusetts’ emergency management agency, MEMA, has said there may be a significant surge Saturday, but at CNN’s live positions at various points in the hardest hit region, the winds have appeared to have calmed in pre-dawn hours.
A life-long New Englander, Jim had lived through the “Great Blizzard” of 1978, the benchmark for snowstorms in the Boston area. “This is nothing compared to that — so far anyway,” he said. The two had briefly lost power a few times, but still had electricity service.
Most of the power outages in Massachusetts have hit the southeast portion, Judge said. The town of Sandwich has lost power to 60% of customers, CNN affiliate WHDH reported.
The state has deployed 3,600 vehicles, mainly plows, to handle the snow, Judge said. Boston has trucks readied with 34,000 tons of sand to spread across city streets, Menino told CNN.
Massachusetts has opened 18 emergency shelters. By early Saturday, over 250 residents had taken advantage of them, Judge said.
Hoops snowed out?
The nor’easter has swatted down travel arrangements for pro basketball teams headed to New York City, leaving the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets grounded.
The Knicks are stuck in Minneapolis, where they played the Timberwolves Friday, a spokesman said. They have a home game at Madison Square Gardens Sunday against the L.A. Clippers.
Canceled flights forced the Nets to attempt to get home by train from Washington, D.C., after a game there against the Wizards.
And the San Antonio Spurs, who were originally flying to New York to play the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night, are stuck in Detroit.
CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton, Pauline Kim, Jake Carpenter, Greg Botelho, Chris Boyette and Marina Carver contributed to this report. David Ariosto is in New York and Ben Brumfield is in Atlanta.