Blizzard batters Boston but New York, like NJ, gets off easy
BOSTON (AP) -- A howling blizzard with gusts over 70 mph heaped snow on Boston along with other stretches of New England and Long Island on Tuesday but failed to live up to the hype in Philadelphia and New York City, where buses and subways started rolling again in the morning.
In New England, the storm that arrived Monday evening was a bitter, paralyzing blast, while in the New York metro area, it was a bust that left forecasters apologizing and politicians defending their near-total shutdown on travel. Some residents grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.
At least 2 feet of snow was expected in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the top snowstorms of all time. The National Weather Service said a 78 mph gust was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph one on Martha's Vineyard.
"It felt like sand hitting you in the face," Bob Paglia said after walking his dog four times overnight in Whitman, a small town about 20 miles south of Boston.
Maureen Keller, who works at Gurney's, an oceanfront resort in Montauk, New York, on the tip of Long Island, said: "It feels like a hurricane with snow."
As of midmorning, the Boston area had 1 1/2 feet of snow, while the far eastern tip of Long Island had more than 2 feet. Snowplows around New England struggled to keep up.
"At 4 o'clock this morning, it was the worst I've ever seen it," said Larry Messier, a snowplow operator in Columbia, Connecticut. "You could plow, and then five minutes later you'd have to plow again."
In Boston, police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals. Snow blanketed Boston Common, and drifts piled up against historic Faneuil Hall, where Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty stoked the fires of rebellion. Adjacent Quincy Market, usually bustling with tourists, was populated only by a few city workers clearing snow from the cobblestones.
As the storm pushed into the Northeast on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters' dire predictions. More than 7,700 flights were canceled, and schools, businesses and government offices closed.
But as the storm pushed northward, it tracked farther east than forecasters had been expecting, and conditions improved quickly in its wake. By midmorning Tuesday, New Jersey and New York City lifted driving bans, and subways and trains started up again, with a return to a full schedule expected Wednesday.
While Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey had braced for a foot or two of snow from what forecasters warned could be a storm of potentially historic proportions, they got far less than that. New York City received about 8 inches, Philadelphia a mere inch or so. New Jersey got up to 8 inches.
A National Weather Service forecaster in Mount Holly, New Jersey, apologized on Twitter for the off-target forecast.
"You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry," Gary Szatkowski tweeted.
Jim Bunker at the agency's Mount Holly office said forecasters will take a closer look at how they handled the storm and "see what we can do better next time."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his statewide ban on travel as "absolutely the right decision to make" in light of the dire forecast.
And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who drew criticism last fall after suggesting meteorologists hadn't foreseen the severity of an epic snowstorm in Buffalo, said this time: "Weather forecasters do the best they can, and we respond based to the best information that we have."
In New York City, Susanne Payot, a cabaret singer whose rehearsal Tuesday was canceled, said the meager snowfall left her bemused: "This is nothing. I don't understand why the whole city shut down because of this."
Brandon Bhajan, a security guard at a New York City building, said he didn't think officials had overreacted.
"I think it's like the situation with Ebola ... if you over-cover, people are ready and prepared, rather than not giving it the attention it needs," he said.
Lavoie reported from Whitman, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Mark Pratt and William J. Kole in Boston; Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rhode Island; Sean Carlin, Michael Sisak and Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Jennifer Peltz, Kiley Armstrong, Ula Ilnytzky and Verena Dobnik in New York City; Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey, contributed to this report.