By Victoria Cavaliere and Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK/MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (Reuters) – The northeastern United States is digging out from a deadly storm that dumped more than 15 inches of snow in some places, with gusting winds and frigid temperatures closing some schools and offices and delaying or canceling thousands of flights.
At least one death was blamed on the storm, which made roads treacherous throughout the region, including near Emmitsburg, Maryland, where a driver lost control and slammed into a tractor trailer, Maryland State Police reported.
Wind gusts over 30 miles per hour were forecast for parts of the Atlantic coast, with temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit across much of the New York metropolitan area, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s brutal out here,” said Ian Chapin, 28, an appliance repairman braving stiff winds as he pumped fuel into his work vehicle at a gas station outside Philadelphia.
U.S. airports reported more than 2,700 flight delays or cancellations on Wednesday, with New York’s LaGuardia airport the hardest-hit, according to FlightAware.com.
Commuters shivered while waiting for delayed trains into New York City, where the massive public transportation system, including subways and buses, was operating mostly on a normal schedule.
“It was cranky and crowded,” said Linda Beck, 37, of South Orange, New Jersey, a producer for Nickelodeon who was stuck on a train for an hour and a half. “Even the conductors were gripey. They couldn’t move from train to train it was so crowded.”
The deepest snowfall was 15.8 inches recorded in Manalapan, New Jersey, not far from the Jersey Shore, according to the weather service.
Temperatures in the Northeast were not expected to rise above freezing before Saturday, said NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro.
“The skies are clearing, but Arctic air is pouring into the region,” Vaccaro said.
SOUTHEAST COLDER THAN ALASKA
The East Coast cold front stretched as far south as Florida, Georgia and Alabama, where a freeze watch was issued, with evening temperatures predicted in the upper 20s F – colder than Anchorage, Alaska, where evening rain and low temperatures in the 30s F were forecast, Vaccaro said.
The heavy snow closed schools in Philadelphia and many suburbs throughout New Jersey, Rhode Island and other states.
Children took advantage of the snow day by sledding, and enterprising teens like Daniel O’Connell, 15, of Abington, Pennsylvania, knocked on doors, offering to shovel sidewalks for a fee, and was typically met with a positive response.
“Usually they just have a smile on their faces; they like supporting younger kids,” said O’Connell, who had a shovel on his shoulder and was bundled up in four layers of shirts, a winter jacket, long johns and jeans, as well as hand and boot warmers.
Delaware’s state offices stayed closed and a state of emergency remained in effect. Federal offices in Washington reopened after a two-hour delay.
New York City pushed toward normalcy, opening schools and even zoos, but the snowstorm that dropped a record-breaking 11 inches of powder in Central Park touched off some complaints about unequal treatment by new Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The new mayor on Wednesday said all parts of the city were treated equally, responding to complaints by residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, many of whom could be a target of de Blasio’s plan to tax the wealthy to pay for pre-kindergarten, that their streets were being ignored as punishment.
“It’s a citywide effort… anyone who wants to play out a theory here, it’s just not accurate,” de Blasio was quoted as saying by local news radio 1010 WINS.
Snow blanketing an icy Times Square in New York failed to keep away determined tourists, including Pablo Magnelli of Buenos Aires, who was traveling with his family.
“We are freezing. But, still, it’s a very nice city,” Magnelli said. “It was a dream to come here, so we will go out today to the sights – Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge. We want to see the city.”
In Washington, James Williams, 59, unemployed and homeless, was trying to dodge the cold by moving from building to building, and waited in the winter sun for the doors to open at the main District of Columbia public library.
“I’m making out… I have no other choice,” said Williams, who said he was seeking warmth in the library because his arthritis is affected by the cold. “I’ll be in there until it’s time to go back to the shelter.”
(Additional reporting by Marina Lopes and Zach Cook in New York, Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Ian Simpson in Washington, Daniel Lovering in Cambridge, Mass., Alice Popovici in Maryland; Editing by Scott Malone, Nick Zieminski and Gunna Dickson)