New York rebounds after blizzard, Washington shuts down government
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON– New York City emerged on Sunday from a massive blizzard that paralyzed much of the US East Coast, while snowy gridlock gripped the nation’s capital and surrounding areas, where federal, state and local offices planned to remain closed on Monday.
Midtown Manhattan sprang back to life on a bright and sunny Sunday as residents and tourists rejoiced in the warming sunlight, digging out buried cars, heading to reopened Broadway shows and cavorting in massive drifts left by New York City’s second-biggest snowstorm on record.
In Washington, where a traffic ban remained in effect, the recovery got off to a slower start, with the entire metropolitan transit system closed through Sunday. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said federal government offices in the Washington area would be shut down on Monday, along with local government offices and public schools in the District of Columbia and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Virginia and Maryland state offices also were ordered closed.
Even so, many people were out in the street. Some skied and snowboarded down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial until security officials moved them on.
The monster weather system unofficially dubbed Winter Storm Jonas left at least 20 dead in several states, with most of the fatalities the result of traffic accidents.
The entire region seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that the worst was over.
“For us, snow is like a normal winter,” said Viola Rogacka, 21, a fashion model from Poland, walking with a friend through New York’s Times Square. “It’s how it should look like.”
Theaters reopened on Broadway after the blizzard forced them to go dark on Saturday on the recommendation of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We still have some areas that we have to do a lot more work on. But we’ve come through it pretty well,” de Blasio said on ABC’s Sunday program “This Week”. “We think we’ll be broadly up and running again at the city tomorrow.”
The blizzard was the second-biggest snowstorm in New York City history, with 26.8 inches (68 cm) measured in Central Park by midnight on Saturday, just shy of the record 26.9 inches (68.3 cm) set in 2006, the National Weather Service said.
At least 13 people were killed in weather-related car crashes in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia on Saturday. One person died in Maryland and three in New York while shoveling snow. Two died of hypothermia in Virginia, and one from carbon monoxide poisoning in Pennsylvania, officials said.
Reinsurance company Munich Re said it was too early to estimate property losses from the storm.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted a travel ban on New York City-area roads and on Long Island at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Sunday. A state of emergency declared by Cuomo was still in place.
Most bus and subway services operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority were up and running again by 9 a.m. (1400 GMT), officials said. The agency was working on restoring full service on Sunday.
The MTA said Sunday night that seven of the Long Island Rail Road’s 12 branches would be fully operational by 5 a.m. on Monday, with partial service restored to an eighth branch. Those branches serve nearly 80 percent of the LIRR’s near 300,000 passengers.
The Metro-North rail line, which serves suburbs north and east of New York City, was restored on Sunday afternoon.
A spokeswoman for the New York Stock Exchange said the market planned to open as usual on Monday. City schools also were set to open on Monday.
On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, grocery store shoppers picked their way through brown slush and over compressed snow and ice as they balanced their bags in their hands.
Drivers tried their best to free cars that were encased in snow, but often found themselves spinning their wheels.
Outside the city, suburban New Jersey resembled Vermont.
“I’m not sure where I am right now because of all the snow,” said Patty Orsini, 56, a marketing analyst from Maplewood, New Jersey, at the nearby South Mountain Reservation. “It’s nice to be out today in the sun. Yesterday it was scary to be outside,” she said as she clipped on her cross-country skis.
SNOWBOUND SCHOOLS AND GOVERNMENT
The National Weather Service said 22.4 inches (57 cm) fell in Washington at the National Zoo, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport notched a record 29.2 inches (74.2 cm). The deepest regional total was 42 inches (106.7 cm) at Glengarry, West Virginia.
Washington, which has a poor track record in dealing with snow, seemed unready for a return to its Monday routine after its largest snowstorm in decades, with major airports, public buses and subways completely shut down all Sunday. Metro trains were to begin limited service starting at 7 a.m. on Monday.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier issued a public apology for commuting headaches caused by the blizzard, which locals dubbed “Snowzilla.” She said crews had worked all night and Sunday, plowing main roads and were just getting to secondary roadways and neighborhoods.
Public schools were slated to be closed on Monday across much of the Washington and Baltimore region, with some shuttered through Tuesday.
All federal offices were to be closed on Monday and the U.S. House of Representatives canceled its voting until Feb. 1. The Pentagon canceled all its events.
Nevertheless, walkers, sledders, some cars and the occasional cross-country skier ventured into the dazzling white Washington landscape under a bright sun.
Paul Schaaf, a 49-year-old helicopter pilot for Children’s Hospital in Washington, was biking 7-1/2 miles (12 km) to work for his overnight shift and planned to bike back to Arlington, Virginia, on Monday morning.
“I have to get into work no matter what. And the best way to do it is on my bicycle with steel-studded snow tires,” he said.
SNOWBALLS AND RUNWAYS
At Dupont Circle, hundreds gathered to pelt each other with snowballs. Jomel Nichols, a tourist from Kansas City, Missouri, accompanying three exchange students and her daughter, was plastered with snow.
“They all turned on me, as teenagers will do,” she told Reuters Television.
More than 3,900 airline flights were canceled on Sunday, and some 900 were called off for Monday, according to aviation website FlightAware.com.
Among New York-area airports, John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia were open, with limited flight activity expected on Sunday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.
About 150,000 customers in North Carolina and 90,000 in New Jersey lost electricity during the storm, but most service had been restored by Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday, moderate coastal flooding was still a concern in the Jersey Shore’s Atlantic County, said Linda Gilmore, a county public information officer. –Reuters