David Goldman, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Heavy snow that surprised and even delighted some Southerners headed toward the winter-hardened Northeast, where an army of emergency workers with plows and salt spreaders readied Wednesday for another onslaught.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said crews would work even harder after criticism of how the city handled a storm just after Christmas, when hundreds of streets went unplowed, subway riders were stranded and medical calls unanswered because ambulances were unable to navigate snowy streets.
Snow started falling late Tuesday. By early Wednesday, 4.5 inches accumulated in Central Park, 3.7 inches at New Jersey's Newark airport, and 3 inches in New Haven, Conn.
Forecasters expected New York City and its suburbs to get an average of about 9 inches and as much as 12 inches in some areas by the afternoon, with reduced visibility and wind gusts up to 35 mph. In New England, the National Weather Service predicted up to a foot across most of Connecticut and the Boston area.
Bloomberg, who was severely chastised by the public for the city's woeful cleanup efforts following the Dec. 26 blizzard, warned residents Tuesday they likely would wake up to unplowed streets and face a rough morning commute because the latest snowstorm was expected to hit heaviest just before rush hour.
"It's going to be a difficult, difficult rush hour," Bloomberg said. "The storm is predicted to be at its heaviest just a few hours before rush hour, and there's no way that our city's plows can get to all 6,000 streets in one or two hours."
The storm is the third to hit New York in less than three weeks, after the Dec. 26 blizzard dumped 29 inches of snow in parts of the city and last week's threat turned into just a 2-inch dusting. It will be another test for Bloomberg and his commissioners, who have suffered endless criticism for the unplowed streets and uncollected garbage that sullied the city for days after the blizzard.
The city stood ready Wednesday with more than 300 salt spreaders, 1,700 plows, and 200 front-end loaders, backhoes and Bobcats. Sanitation workers were on 12-hour shifts.
Seth Andrews, a spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management, said that as of around 1:30 a.m. no serious problems had been reported although a few vehicles had gotten stuck. He said crews were out in full force to handle any emergencies.
In New Jersey, residents were bracing for at least 4 inches of snow throughout the state and up to a foot in parts. And they were keeping a close eye on Gov. Chris Christie, who left for a Disney World family vacation in Orlando, Fla., just before the Christmas blizzard struck the Northeast even though his lieutenant governor also was out of state.
Christie, who was heavily criticized for the trip, has said he and the lieutenant governor wouldn't be out of state at the same time again and even joked last week about "shoveling myself" to dig people out of snow if necessary.
Pennsylvania transportation officials urged residents to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary. Reduced speed limits were in place on major highways in the east-central part of the state. As the storm approached Tuesday, the city of Philadelphia declared a snow emergency. City officials expected 4 to 8 inches.
Meteorologist Jim Hayes at the weather service office in Mount Holly, N.J., said the storm was just about over for the city and southeastern Pennsylvania by 3 a.m. Five inches had accumulated in Philadelphia.
Snow and ice shut down much of the South for two days. Road crews lacked winter equipment, salt and sand to clear the roads, and millions of people just stayed home. Mail delivery was restricted, and many schools and other institutions closed. The storm was blamed for 11 deaths and many more injuries.
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