Northeast begins digging out after storm blankets states with 1 to 3 feet of snow

By Jay Lindsay

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 9 2013 3:10 p.m. MST

Joe Janeczko helps dig his neighbor out of the snow in East Windsor, Conn. on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. A behemoth storm packing hurricane-force wind gusts and blizzard conditions swept through the Northeast overnight.

Jessica Hill, Associated Press

BOSTON — A howling storm across the Northeast left the New York-to-Boston corridor shrouded in 1 to 3 feet of snow Saturday, stranding motorists on highways overnight and piling up drifts so high that some homeowners couldn't get their doors open. More than 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity.

At least three deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the wind-whipped snowstorm, including that of a New York man killed when the tractor he was using to plow his driveway ran off the edge of the road.

More than 38 inches of snow fell in Milford, Conn., and an 82 mph gust was recorded in nearby Westport. Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire got at least 2 feet of snow, with more falling. Portland, Maine, received 29.3 inches, breaking the record set in 1979.

Roads in many places were impassable. Across much of New England, snowed-over cars looked like white blobs. Streets were mostly deserted save for snowplow crews and a few hardy souls walking dogs or venturing out to take pictures. In Boston's Financial District, the only sound was an army of snowblowers clearing sidewalks.

The digging-out went more smoothly in some places than in others.

A little more than 11 inches fell in New York, but the city "dodged a bullet" and was "in great shape," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, predicting streets would be cleared by the end of the day. The New York region's three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. — were up and running again by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

But hundreds of motorists abandoned their vehicles on New York's Long Island, which got 2½ feet of snow, and even snowplows were getting stuck. Emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists, some of whom spent the night in their cars.

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and head for his home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

"There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there."

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut closed roads to all but essential traffic.

The Interstate 95 corridor from the New York metropolitan area to Boston, with a population of roughly 25 million, appeared to take the brunt of the storm. One of hardest-hit places was Connecticut, where even emergency responders found themselves stuck on highways all night. In Fairfield, police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift stayed on.

Several state police cars were also stuck in deep snow in Maine, where stranded drivers were warned to expect long waits for tow trucks.

Nearly 22 inches of snow fell in Boston and more was expected, closing in on the 2003 record of 27.6 inches. The archdiocese in the heavily Roman Catholic city reminded parishioners that under church law, the requirement to attend Sunday Mass "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation." Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night.

Flooding fears along the Massachusetts coast led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury.

But around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.

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