New England takes a hit as storm scrapes northward

By Pat Eaton-robb

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 7:22 a.m. MST

Roy Williams of Westfield, Mass., shovels snow in front of his vehicle on a merge ramp on Interstate 91 southbound during a winter storm in Windsor, Conn., Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Williams said a plow clearing the highway passed by and blocked him in.

Jessica Hill, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

HARTFORD, Conn. — A winter storm that shut down much of the South churned up the coast Wednesday, dumping wet, heavy snow across the Northeast and saving its most brutal punch for New England, where hundreds of cars spun out and schools and businesses shut down.

Armies of plows and salt spreaders hit streets across the region to stem chaos during Wednesday morning's commute. In Connecticut, where nearly 2 feet of snow had fallen and it as still coming down, state police responded to about 500 spinouts, fender-benders and stranded vehicles. Four minor injuries were reported.

"Troopers are going from one stranded vehicle to another," said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a department spokesman.

In New York, where officials took heavy criticism for slow response to a Dec. 26 blizzard, the morning commute got off to a promising start as plows cleared streets blocked for days by the last storm. Nearly 9 inches fell in Central Park, well short of the 20 inches last month's storm dumped on the city.

New England, though, appeared to be caught off guard by the ferocity of the storm. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, leading the state through what threatened to be his first disaster, ordered a double shift of state troopers onto highways.

Heavy snow and gusting winds closed hundreds of schools and businesses from Maine and New Hampshire southward.

"You can't see across the street. The wind and snow is blowing about 40 miles an hour sideways," said Artie Perrin, general manager at Kelly's Roast Beef in Revere, north of Boston.

Ridgefield, Conn., had 22 inches of snow by 8 a.m., and Danbury had 18 inches. In Bridgeport, the state's largest city, a snow emergency was declared and only city and education board employees essential to storm operations were expected at work. In Maine, an inch of snow an hour was meant snow plows had a hard time keeping up.

Every flight in and out of Boston's Logan Airport was delayed. New York's LaGuardia Airport canceled 675 flights, Kennedy Airport 300 and Newark Liberty 440. Philadelphia's airport reported about 20 dozen canceled outbound flights and 100 canceled arrivals, but spokeswoman Victoria Lupica expected things to be back in full swing by noon.

Officials cautioned motorists to stay off the road from the Carolinas to Maine. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick noted reports of spinouts and disoriented motorists heading the wrong way on highways.

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.

The storm was the third to hit New York in less than three weeks, after the crippling Dec. 26 blizzard and a 2-inch dusting last week.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said crews would work even harder after criticism of how the city handled the blizzard, when hundreds of streets went unplowed, subway riders were stranded and medical calls unanswered because ambulances were unable to navigate snowy streets.

In Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, an area paralyzed by last month's storm, all major and side streets were plowed by Wednesday morning. A few cars skidded on the slush.

"It's going to be a difficult, difficult rush hour," Bloomberg had said Tuesday. "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."

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