NYPD cars covered in snow are seen in New York. Millions of people in the eastern United States started digging out from a huge blizzard that brought New York and Washington to a standstill, but the travel woes were far from over.(KENA BETANCUR / AFP/Getty Images)
Workers clear the tracks of snow at the Port Washington branch of the Long Island Railroad in New York N.Y. Service is suspended on the Port Washington branch due to the recent snow storm.(Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)
People walk near the Washington Monument in Washington.(OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP/Getty Images)
A child goes sledding down a hill in Bruce Park in Greenwich, Connecticut.(TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP/Getty Images)
General view of Brooklyn Bridge with snowed up docks in New York.(FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT / AFP/Getty Images)
A young girl is sliding on the West Lawn of the US Capitol in Washington. Millions of people in the eastern United States started digging out from a huge blizzard that brought New York and Washington to a standstill.(OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP/Getty Images)
Children slide in the snow in Central Park in New York.(FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT / AFP/Getty Images)
Dan Cooperman falls into a deep snowbank in Brooklyn, N.Y., as he was trying to clear his car on Jan. 24.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
John Ruiz, 18, left, and Tyrone Graham, 16, earn money digging cars out of the snow in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., on Jan. 24.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Saul Shapiro, center, Jim Keller, right, and Jonathan Marvel, back, enjoy cross-country skiing along the Brooklyn, N.Y., waterfront on Jan. 24.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
As the sun comes out on Jan. 24 after a major snowstorm hit the Northeast, families enjoy sledding at Hillside Dog Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Snow covers the Brooklyn, N.Y., waterfront with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background on Jan. 24.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Two women make their way across 6th Avenue in Manhattan.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A light snow continued to fall in Brooklyn late Saturday.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Pedestrians battle heavy snow and wind on 6th Avenue in Manhattan.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The snowy scene on Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Conn.(Stan Godlewski / Hartford Courant)
A couple walk along the Brooklyn Bridge.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Blizzard conditions make driving difficult on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A man skis across the Brooklyn Bridge.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A man helps a police officer get his cruiser out of the snow in Baltimore.(Karl Merton Ferron )
A snowplow clears Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.(Francois Xavier Marit / AFP/Getty Images)
New York canceled bus service because of the snowstorm.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A man crosses a windy snowy street in Manhattan.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )
A car owner digs out in Brooklyn.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Snow falls heavily in Manhattan on Saturday morning.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )
Pedestrians trudge through heavy snow falling on Manhattan.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
New Yorkers don boots, gloves and parkas against the wind and snow.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )
A woman and her dog have the streets mostly to themselves in Brooklyn as heavy snow pounds the East Coast.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A plow clears a street Friday in Bowling Green, Ky.(Austin Anthony / Associated Press)
Workers shovel snow on the Martin Luther King bridge in Roanoke, Va., as snow falls Friday morning.(Stephanie Klein-Davis / Associated Press)
Cars drive in difficult conditions in southwest Roanoke County, Va., as a blizzard hits the Eastern United States.(Erica Yoon / The Roanoke Times)
Taylor Mushtare scrapes ice and snow from her car in Old Southwest Roanoke, Va.(Heather Rousseau / Associated Press)
A woman strolls along Campbell Avenue at First Street with her dog as snow falls Friday morning in Roanoke, Va.(Stephanie Klein-Davis / Associated Press)
A customer looks at the heavily depleted bread section of a grocery store, as shoppers prepare for an approaching snowstorm in Alexandria, Va.(Michael Reynolds / EPA)
Snow gathers on a swing set in Highland Park in Roanoke, Va.(Heather Rousseau / Associated Press)
Donald Summit plows the sidewalk along Williamson Road in Roanoke, Va., as snow falls Friday morning.(Stephanie Klein-Davis / Associated Press)
Bashon Mann and his children sled down a hill on Capitol Hill in Washington as snow falls around them. It may have taken an act of Congress, but the children of Washington are finally welcome to go sledding on Capitol Hill.(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Cesar Gonzalez builds a snowman in Oxford, Miss.(Bruce Newman / Associated Press)
Barbara Davis walks her dog Haddix in Bowling Green, Ky. Snow and drizzle began falling early Wednesday across much of Kentucky and Tennessee, leading school districts and some universities to cancel classes and officials to warn motorists to drive carefully.(Miranda Pederson / Associated Press)
Shoveled snow is piled in the plaza east of the Capitol in Washington.(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Secret Service officers and pedestrians in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue after a light snow storm.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Tara Jakeway with Chasing News makes an angel in the man-made snow in New York’s Central Park during Winter Jam NYC’s Ultimate Snow Day, a free festival for people to learn to ski, snowboard and sled.(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images)
Beth Bryant takes part in a parents-vs.-kids snowball fight at Bowling Green Junior High School in Kentucky.(Austin Anthony / Associated Press)
In Bismarck, N.D., the Pioneer Family monument on the mall of the state Capitol is covered in frost.(Tom Stromme / Associated Press)
A city worker blows snow from a sidewalk in Knoxville, Tenn.(Amy Smotherman Burgess / Associated Press)
A snow plow works on clearing the Volunteer Parkway as snow falls in Bristol, Tenn.(Earl Neikirk / Associated Press)
A bicyclist has his hands full as he pedals through the snow in Bristol, Va.(Andre Teague / Associated Press)
Nick Morgan shovels sidewalks of Indiana Woods Apartment complex in Evansville, Ind.(Erin McCracken / Associated Press)
Work continues at the Howell Railroad Yard in Evansville, Ind., with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. Another round of snow is forecast for Thursday.(Denny Simmons / Associated Press)
Atley Osborne and her sled part ways as she slides down Reitz High School’s practice field hill in Evansville, Ind.(Denny Simmons / Associated Press)
A woman braves snowy conditions in Washington.(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)
A man clears a sidewalk in Washington.(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)
The powerful blizzard that slammed the East Coast on Saturday quickly surpassed forecasters’ dire predictions, claiming at least 18 lives, flooding coasts, unleashing hurricane-force winds and paralyzing life for residents of at least 20 states from Georgia to Massachusetts.
The storm was well on its way to smashing snowfall records.
Mayors and governors said they did not expect their cities to be back in business until next week.
“Safety is our number one priority – and right now, it is not safe for the general public to travel,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned as the heart of the storm hit his state. Visibility was so low that those walking across the Brooklyn Bridge couldn’t see the East River beneath or the Manhattan skyline soaring above. Since Thursday night, 25 inches had fallen in Central Park, nearing the city’s record of 26.9 inches, which fell over two days in 2006.
Cuomo took the rare step of banning all travel in the nation’s largest city Saturday. Drivers in New York City who failed to stay off the roads risked being ticketed, and even trains and large segments of the subway system, the lifeblood of the city, were shut down. Minutes before imposing the travel ban, Cuomo said, he saw the risk firsthand when he helped a crew rescue a driver whose car had spun out on Long Island’s Cross Island Parkway.
Many who tried to drive through the storm elsewhere soon regretted it, as icy and snow-covered roadways from Kentucky to Pennsylvania stranded motorists for hours behind crashed cars and whiteout conditions.
“We’ve hit the 24 hour mark on the bus!” the Temple University women’s gymnastics team tweeted from the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Saturday afternoon. The athletes watched Disney movies to pass the time, according to their tweets.
Another bus full of college athletes stuck on the same highway, the Duquesne University men’s basketball team, hiked nearly a mile through more than 2 feet of snow to meet a Domino’s driver so they could eat, according to their social media account.
Along New Jersey’s and Delaware’s coastlines, Saturday’s storm caused ice-laden seawater to rush into the streets of beach towns. This same area — a network of low-lying communities, brackish bays and dune-covered oceanfront — was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“The barrier islands here are very narrow, so it’s usually the bay that breaches,” said Chip French, an Avalon, N.J., resident whose town sits on a narrow stretch of land alongside the Atlantic Ocean. “We have ice floes going down the streets of the barrier islands right now.”
The snow was being whipped by winds that reached 75 mph at Dewey Beach in Delaware and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.
Across the region, the snowfall totals from Thursday to Saturday were staggering. Twenty inches in Philadelphia. Several Maryland communities saw 35 inches—or more. At the National Zoo in Washington, 22 inches were recorded. In Glengary, W.Va., an amateur radio operator reported 40 inches.
Officials reported hundreds of traffic accidents and several fires. Cuomo told CNN that his greatest fear was flooding in low-lying parts of the city and on the south shore of Long Island.
“If we’re going to have a real problem, it’s going to be the tidal surge tonight,” he said.
By late afternoon, about 20 inches had been reported in Washington and New York, with little sign of high winds and rising snow levels letting up. Both totals were among the highest ever recorded in those cities.
“I used to like it,” Barbara Enman of Brooklyn said of snow as she shoveled her front steps. “It is pretty, though.”
But also perilous.
“It continues to be a dangerous storm,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser warned during a late-afternoon news briefing. Bowser pleaded with residents to sign up online to help the elderly and disabled clear their sidewalks, saying the city had been inundated with calls for help and could not meet the demand.
The Associated Press reported that 18 deaths were attributed to auto accidents, shoveling snow and hypothermia.
Forecasters said the blizzard’s final flakes would probably fall sometime Sunday afternoon in southeastern Massachusetts.
Parked cars up and down the Eastern Seaboard were buried and barely visible under the blankets of white. Normally bustling streets in New York, Philadelphia and Washington were quiet, with occasional sledders and sightseers, but few businesses open for a night on the town.
Most small shops along that stretch of Broadway, which normally would have been open for steady weekend trade, had closed by about 2 p.m. Remaining open and doing brisk business were several bars and restaurants and a hardware store, where a woman exited with her young daughter and a brand-new sled.
Families coming out of subway tunnels carrying sledding saucers were hit by wind and snow as they tried to make their way to Central Park, where visibility at times was zero.
Across the region, streets remained vacant except for snowplows, which tried, often in vain, to keep up with the relentless outpouring.
“There are very few roads where we’re seeing pavement right now,” said Chris Geldart, the emergency management director for the District of Columbia.
Some saw more extensive flooding. The National Weather Service reported near-record flooding along Delaware’s coast.
Earlier in the day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters that he had directed state resources in the state’s southern region toward communities like Avalon, to ensure that anyone displaced by the flooding had a place to go.
But Christie, who had to cancel presidential campaign events in New Hampshire to return home, said the state had learned from Sandy. In the years after the storm, it purchased and demolished hundreds of unsafe properties along the coastline.
Throughout the storm’s path, there was danger that as the snow got heavier overnight, roofs and trees could falter. And as residents began to shovel, those with heart conditions could be at risk.
Rick Hoffman of Frederick, Md., had worked through the night plowing a small corner of Montgomery County with his blue Ford pickup truck. He was still at it midday Saturday, but couldn’t keep up with the continuous pelting of snow.
“It’s one of the worst I’ve seen,” said the 57-year-old Hoffman, who has worked as a snow-removal contractor for decades. What made things particularly treacherous, he said, was that the light texture of the snow coming down produced a sheath of ice underneath.
“A lot of people underestimated how bad it would be,” he said.
In Gaithersburg, a Maryland suburb north of Washington, Mark Hesseloff was up early Saturday, his 47th birthday, digging an 8-by-6 clearing outside his snow-covered apartment complex. His face was drenched with a mixture of sweat and ice as he scooped sections of snow with his orange shovel.
“This will be a perfect little spot for them,” he said referring to his two bulldogs, who had had been cooped up since Friday afternoon. Moments later, one of them, 8-year-old Blondie, hobbled outside, relieved. “Yup, she’s been waiting,” he said.
Times staff writer Bierman reported from Washington and special correspondent Hansen from New York. Staff writers Don Lee, Lisa Mascaro, Michael Memoli and Sarah Wire and special correspondent Christine Rushton contributed to this report from Washington.
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