PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 3 feet (a meter) of snow Saturday and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York’s Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.
At least eight deaths were blamed on the storm, including three in Canada.
About 510,000 homes and businesses remained without power late Saturday night, down from a total of about 650,000. Roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable. Cars were entombed by drifts. Some people found the wet, heavy snow packed so high against their homes they couldn’t get their doors open.
“It’s like lifting cement. They say it’s 2 feet, but I think it’s more like 3 feet,” said Michael Levesque, who was shoveling snow in Quincy, Massachusetts, for a landscaping company.
In Providence, where the drifts were 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight, Jason Harrison labored for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, “has already paid for itself.”
At least five deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn’t passed: “People need to take this storm seriously, even after it’s over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shoveling.”
Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph (128 kph) in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford., Connecticut, got 38 inches (96 centimeters) of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9 inches (81 centimeters), shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet (.61 meters).
Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of ’78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.
By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches (63 centimeters) in Boston, or fifth on the city’s all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Connecticut, got 22 inches (56 centimeters), for the No. 2 spot in the record books there.
Concord, New Hampshire, got 24 inches (61 centimeters) of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.
In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches (28 centimeters), not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city “dodged a bullet” and its streets were “in great shape.” The three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, New Jersey — were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.
Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, a peak of around 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state.
By nightfall, utility crews had started to make significant progress in restoring power and bringing those numbers down.
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. The Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.
On Long Island, which got more than 2.5 feet (.76 meters) of snow, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.
One of those who was rescued, Priscilla Arena, prayed as she waited, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children, ages 5 and 9. Among her advice: “Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love.”
Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.
“I was very lucky and I never even lost power,” said Susan Kelly of Bayville. “We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm.” As for the shoveling, “I got two hours of exercise.”
At New York’s Fashion Week, women tottered on 4-inch (10.16-centimeter) heels through the snow to get to the tents to see designers’ newest collections.
Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow and were jumping into snow banks and making forts. Snow was waist-high in the streets of Boston. Plows made some thoroughfares passable but piled even more snow on cars parked on the city’s narrow streets.
Boston’s Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night.
In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family’s home. Everyone was fine.
Some spots in Massachusetts had to be evacuated because of coastal flooding, including Salisbury Beach, where around 40 people were ordered out.
In southern Ontario, an 80-year-old woman collapsed while shoveling snow from her driveway, and two men were killed in car crashes. One pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed Friday night in Connecticut, and a 23-year-old New York man plowing his driveway with a tractor went off the edge of the road and was killed, police in those states said.
As snow began falling Friday, some synagogues announced they would be canceling weekend services.
At least two synagogues in Providence, RI, called off Shabbat services. “Due to the impending blizzard all worship services have been canceled Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said a recorded message at Providence’s Temple Beth-El on Friday afternoon.
Dr. Francine Helfner, a resident of Providence’s East Side, told The Times of Israel that snow stood at least a foot deep on the ground, but high winds that blew throughout the night had massed drifts up to several feet high.
Newport, RI’s Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the country, did not hold prayer services this Shabbat for the first time in years. Nearly 99% of Aquidneck Island, where Newport is located, lost power, according to the Providence Journal.
B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side said services was held as usual with the exception of a special service for young children, which had been canceled.
“A lot of people live within walking distance so we’re allowing them to use their own discretion,” said a spokesperson.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.