Snow threatened to reach record depths and bitter cold struck the Northeast and Midwest as the nation marked Groundhog Day with the hope of a quick spring to replace what has become a nasty winter.
The storm, which began over the weekend in the Midwest and then churned its way east Monday, brought the fifth-heaviest snowfall ever recorded in Chicago, the third-largest in Detroit and the snowiest week ever reported in Boston, which was hit by a major blizzard last week. Boston officials announced that the weather had forced them to postpone Tuesday's parade for the NFL's Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots.
"Due to today's bad weather and the worsening forecast for tonight, the New England Patriots and the city of Boston have made the mutual decision to postpone the victory parade until Wednesday," Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement.
Boston reported about 10 inches of snow by the afternoon, bringing the week's total to more than 34 inches, with more expected. The latest storm cut a wide swath through the Midwest, bringing 19.3 inches of snow to Chicago by Monday. About 2,400 customers in the Chicago area remained without power, down from the 51,000 who lost electricity when the storm began.
More than 9,500 flights were delayed or canceled Sunday through Monday because of the storm, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware. Schools in states across the upper tier of the nation were closed. Five deaths related to traffic or shoveling were reported in Ohio, Nebraska, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
In the Detroit area, 16.7 inches of snow fell at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus on Sunday and Monday, the third highest ever and highest since a 19.3-inch storm in December 1974, the National Weather Service said.
The brutal storm was expected to bring low temperatures across the nation.
As it does every year on Feb. 2, the nation turned to a group of groundhogs to get their perspective on how much longer winter will last. The National Weather Service annually warns Americans that groundhogs are not a reliable indicator of meteorological events, but Groundhog Day has become a popular enough tradition to spawn a hit movie and ceremonies around the nation.
In Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil reportedly saw his shadow, indicating six more weeks of winter, according to legend. But other groundhogs came to the opposite conclusion, or at least that was the interpretation by various handlers and officials.
Jimmy, the official groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wis., bit Mayor Jonathan Freund's ear as the official leaned over to apparently hear the rodent's prediction. According to video broadcast by WISC-TV, Freund flinched and declared the animal was predicting an early spring.
Last year, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog. The animal died a week later of internal injuries never directly linked to the fall. This year, the new groundhog, known as Staten Island Chuck, was protected in a Plexiglas enclosure.
"This new approach will be safer for both species," De Blasio said.
The animal promised an early spring, the mayor said.