BOSTON — A howling blizzard heaped snow on Boston, the rest of eastern Massachusetts and parts of Long Island on Tuesday, delivering wind gusts topping 75 mph, but it failed to live up to the hype farther south in Philadelphia and New York City, which canceled its travel ban amid better-than-expected weather conditions.
Massachusetts was pounded by snow and lashed by strong winds early Tuesday as bands of heavy snow left some towns, including Sandwich on Cape Cod and Oxford in central Massachusetts, reporting more than 18 inches of snow. Total accumulation was expected to reach or exceed 2 feet in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the top snowstorms of all time. The National Weather Service says a wind gust of 78 mph was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph gust was reported in Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard.
Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion, particularly on Cape Cod.
"It's part of living here," said Steve Berlo, who has an oceanfront home in Scituate, Massachusetts. "When the water comes, you get out of the way, and when it goes, you see what it left you. Like we always say, five days a year it sucks to live here, but the rest of the year it's good."
Maine and New Hampshire each declared a state of emergency, and government offices in both states were closed Tuesday. In Hartford, Connecticut, up to a foot of snow was expected. Providence, Rhode Island, reported 10 inches of snow early Tuesday.
Parts of Long Island also experienced a blizzard, with snow falling 2 inches per hour. Islip had 14.7 inches of snow by early Tuesday. A 17-year-old boy snow-tubing with friends was killed when he crashed into a light pole and died Monday night amid moderate to heavy snow and gusty winds.
"It feels like a hurricane with snow," said Maureen Keller, who works at Gurney's, an oceanfront resort in Montauk.
Sections of New York were forecast to see 10 to 20 inches of snow, and a 60-mile stretch of the New York Thruway reopened after being shut down for about nine hours.
But as the storm system spun northward, conditions improved quickly from southwest to northeast. Travel bans were lifted by midmorning in New Jersey and New York. New York City buses, subways and trains were expected to restart later in the morning, and a return to a full schedule was expected Wednesday.
The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.
But some areas in the Northeast escaped the brunt of the storm.
In southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, where a foot or more of snow had been forecast, residents dealt with just 3 to 5 inches, which proved to be more annoying than life-altering.
On Monday, some cities came to a near halt as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels and assembled their biggest plowing crews.
Light snow fell steadily early Tuesday in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets. The city had an almost eerie, post 9/11 feel to it: no airplanes in the sky. An unexpected quiet.
Brandon Bhajan, a security guard at a West 33rd Street building, said the situation early Tuesday was better than expected.
"We expected a lot more accumulation," Bhajan said. "I feel like the wind is more of the problem than the actual snowfall. It's rough to walk and it's very, very cold.
"I don't think they (city) overblew it. I think it's like the situation with Ebola ... if you over-cover, people are ready and prepared rather than not giving it the attention it needs."
More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them might not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.
On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange said it would operate normally Tuesday.
Through midmorning, utility companies across the region reported minimal power outages.
Associated Press writers Sean Carlin and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia; Kiley Armstrong, Ula Ilnytzky and Meghan Barr in New York City; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; and Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this report.