Washington(ANN)A powerful storm swept fast and furiously across the North were declared in four states east on Saturday, dumping mountains of snow, forcing hundreds of motorists to abandon their cars at
the height of the blizzard and knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people.
Even with the storm still raging on Saturday morning, officials in Massachusetts ordered the evacuation of some communities along the coast as waves lashed the shoreline and high tide brought a surge of water inland.
Through the night, winds gusted with hurricane force in some places, downing power lines and creating white-out conditions. More than three feet of snow fell in parts of Connecticut, and more than two feet were reported on Long Island and in Massachusetts, with the storm still doing damage as day broke.
States of emergency were declared in four states on Friday. The governor of Massachusetts banned travel on all roads as night fell, an order that remained in effect on Saturday. In Connecticut, where the governor had ordered no cars on state highways on Friday night, residents were told early Saturday morning to stay off all roads.
Still, whether by choice or necessity, hundreds of drivers tried to travel home on Friday night and beat the nor’easter as the winds whipped. On Long Island, the storm descended so quickly that hundreds were forced to abandon their cars on the highways and streets as roads became impassable.
Snowplow drivers worked furiously to clear roads, but the snow limited what they could do.
“It’s really hard right now, it’s wet, it’s heavy and it’s freezing, so everything is going slow,” said Jack Mandaneza, 31, as he took a break from plowing on the Long Island Expressway at the height of the storm.
Barbara Barkiano, 43, a housecleaner, tried to make her way along the highway behind the plows, but the snow snapped both windshield wipers on her Honda Civic hybrid.
“My knees are shaking,” she said stopping at a gas station to hand-scrape snow from her windshield. She added, “I’m going to stay right here for a while.”
The storm’s impact was felt by more than 40 million people, from northern New Jersey to Maine.
The most immediate problem is moving people out of homes where they have lost power, Massachusetts state officials said at a briefing Saturday morning. National Guard soldiers have been deployed, mainly in the southeastern part of the state, to retrieve people and take them to warming centers and shelters, but even members of the Guard have been trapped at home; only about 2,000 soldiers of a force of more than 5,000 have been able to respond.
High tide started at 10:15 a.m., and the waves off the south shore of Boston and parts of Cape Cod have measured as high as 15 and 20 feet. Officials expect major coastal flooding and are trying to evacuate residents as soon as possible.
Despite the best efforts to clear roads Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said they are “struggling to keep up with the snow.”
For many, the memory of Hurricane Sandy — and its terrible toll — was still fresh as they crowded supermarkets and supply stores to stock up as the storm bore down on the region.
Long lines at gas stations, and scattered reports that places were running out of fuel led Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York to warn people not to “panic buy” gasoline.
The storm played out the way many forecasters said it would — with New York City spared from the worst of the storm, and points to the north and east hit harder.
Overnight, temperatures across the region dropped precipitously in Boston, and created dangerous conditions for the hundreds of thousands of people without power.
Several coastal communities in New England faced the possibility of major flooding. The police in the towns of Marshfield, Revere and Scituate urged residents who lived on the ocean to evacuate.
Instead of dissipating overnight, the storm seemed to gain strength in the Boston area, and on Saturday morning winds topping 70 miles per hour still whipped through some towns and cities, creating massive snowdrifts and forcing people to simply sit inside and ride it out.
Mr. Bloomberg, at a Saturday morning news conference, offered to help neighboring states in any way they may need.
“They have gotten an enormous amount of snow, and the snow continues to come down,” he said.
He also said he spoke with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo about the situation on Long Island and offered the city’s assistance in dealing with the sitatutation there.
Most of the roads in the city, he said, were well on the way to being cleared and he thanked people for staying off the roads during the storm.
“I think it is fair to say we were very lucky,” he said.
In Central Park, a total snowfall of 11.4 inches was reported at 6 a.m., and the snowfall had ended by daybreak.
But in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as on Long Island, residents faced the prospect of a long weekend of digging out.
“We don’t have all the statistics in quite yet, but for some locations this is one for the record books,” said David Stark, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service based in Suffolk County.
With snow still falling, the Weather Service said it had reports out of New Haven County, in Connecticut, of more than three feet, including 36.2 inches in Oxford and 38 inches in Milford. In Commack, on Long Island, 29.1 inches of snowfall were reported at 6 a.m. and 27.5 inches at MacArthur Airport in Islip.
The deep snows and impassable roads will make it hard for utlitiy workers to restore power even as the storm abates.
There were 407,000 power failures reported in Massachusetts, and more than 180,000 were reported in Rhode Island. And the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Mass., shut down because of the storm. On Long Island, about 10,000 customers were reported without power, the Long Island Power Authority said.
Marcy Reed, president of National Grid, which supplies power to the Long Island Power Authority, said failures could last several days because repairs would not begin until the storm ended and would require unearthing power lines buried under mounds of snow.
Logan Airport in Boston was expected to be closed until at least Sunday. The three international airports around New York City were slowly working to resume operations on Saturday, but with more than 5,000 flights canceled since Friday, many travelers could still face challenges.
Workers were still struggling to figure out how many people were stuck on roads or otherwise in danger across the region.
Scores of cars including tow trucks, semis and even county snowplows were strewn about and stuck in the snow along North Ocean Avenue in Brookhaven, Long Island, which had received 30.3 inches by 6 a.m.
John Lazar, supervisor of bridges for Suffolk County, shoveled furiously on Saturday morning at the spinning rear wheel of a giant, 10-wheel county snowplow stuck just off the Long Island Expressway, which was closed. In front of him a dozen sedans sat idle in the middle of the road, partly buried in snow.
“This is why the plows are stuck,” he yelled. “Why isn’t this a state of emergency? Why are these people out here?”
Jasmine Stephens, 20, a college student who spent the night in her disabled white car right in front of where the plow became stuck asked Mr. Lazar if the plow might hit her if it became unstuck.
“I hope not,” Mr. Lazar grumbled.
Ms. Stephens said she had been shivering inside her car for eight hours and counting, running dangerously low on gas, out-of-reach of rescue vehicles.
“I’m freezing, I just want to go home,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll get me out of here.” But she admitted that once she was out, she did not know where she would go.
Outside her car window, snow drifts as tall as men had piled up during the blizzard. Parked and disabled cars resembled igloos and the air buzzed with the sound of furiously spinning tires.
Doris Caruso, 77, also spent the night in her Chevrolet Cobalt, stuck in the middle of the road. She said she spent hours struggling east on the expressway, unable to get off because of accidents and closed exits. She got off the expressway at the first opportunity, Exit 63 in Holtsville, N.Y., to get some relief and did not even make it a quarter mile before she became stuck for the night.
“They let us out early from work for the storm,” said Ms. Caruso, a school cleaner. “I’ve been stuck here ever since.”
But for those who heeded warnings and stayed off the roads, and whose power was still on, the winter weather was made somewhat less severe because it fell on a weekend.
For many, Saturday was a day for fun — an excuse to stay home and play in the powder. In New York City, many people woke up early to snap photos of snow-topped streetlamps and make fresh tracks on their way to find the best hill to go sledding.
It was also good for some businesses.
“These aren’t flakes falling from the sky; these are dollar bills,” said Ed Carrier as he sat in a coffee shop in Portsmouth, N.H., and envisioned the boon for winter sports. Staff members at the Thirsty Moose Taphouse nearby said they were determined to stay open through the storm until their regular closing time at 1 a.m. (except in the case of a power failure), and even offered storm-related drink specials: $3 porters and stouts, as long as it was snowing. “It’s just a little bit of snow,” said the hostess, Kim Lovely. “Mother Nature’s just brushing out her dandruff.”
By MARC SANTORA