NEW YORK — Up and down the East Coast, armies of emergency workers with plows and salt spreaders hit the streets Wednesday morning, as the snowstorm that caused mayhem in the South moved into the region and dumped more than a foot in some areas overnight.
New York City's public school system will remain open despite the snow, but schools were shut elsewhere, including parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, where the storm was windier and snow was heavier than expected.
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.
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, plows were out and all major and side streets were plowed Wednesday morning. A few cars skidded on the slush.
Snow started falling late Tuesday. By early Wednesday, 8.8 inches accumulated in Central Park, and up to a foot fell in some parts of New Jersey and western Connecticut.
The flurries stopped early Wednesday in Philadelphia, where five inches accumulated, but wet, sticky, wind-blown snow caused near whiteout conditions in parts of Massachusetts, forcing mass school cancelations and delaying every flight in an out of Logan International Airport.
Forecasters expected New York City and its suburbs to get an average of about 9 inches. The heaviest snow was expected on Long Island, with accumulations up to 20 inches in some areas by afternoon.
In New England, the National Weather Service predicted as much as 14 inches in the Boston area, up to 18 in central Massachusetts and perhaps as much as 20 in Berkshire County.
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 3:30 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, relatively few problems were reported Wednesday and plows were out in force. Locals 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.
Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city, also declared a snow emergency. Only city and education board employees essential to storm operations were expected at work Wednesday.
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.
Despite the inconvenience, Southerners confronted the aftermath with patience — and a certain amount of wonder.
Lynn Marentette, a school psychologist who lives south of Charlotte, N.C., stayed home after classes were canceled. She spent Tuesday catching up with friends on Facebook and watching children sled down a nearby hill — and ignored the stack of paperwork on her desk.
"It is a beautiful, beautiful day out there," she said. "I have some paperwork and some things I've really put off doing, but how often do you have a chance to enjoy the snow?"
Some New Yorkers said they were nervous about the snow, given the city's poor cleanup of the post-Christmas blizzard.Comment on this story
"I'm not sure anybody's going to make the right decisions," said Andre Borshch, of Brooklyn. "Alaska and Canada spend six months like this, and they have no problems, but here in New York, the city doesn't know what to do with snow. It's like they've forgotten how to do it."
After the blizzard, city officials admitted mistakes, beginning when commissioners considered calling a snow emergency but didn't. The snow emergency declaration keeps private vehicles without snow tires or chains off designated snow routes and bans parking along those routes. The city last declared a snow emergency in 2005.
Bloomberg administration officials on Tuesday again decided against declaring a snow emergency, instead issuing a lower-level weather emergency. The move serves mostly as a mechanism to alert local agencies and residents about the seriousness of the storm. It urges motorists to avoid unnecessary driving, informs them that their cars could be towed at their expense if they impede plows and suspends garbage collections and parking meter charges.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in Carle Place, N.Y., and Sara Kugler Frazier, Chris Hawley and Karen Matthews in New York City; Dorie Turner, Don Schanche and Errin Haines in Atlanta; Bill Poovey in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C.