NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Northeast dug out of yet another winter storm on Thursday that pummeled the region with unexpectedly heavy snowfall, making January the snowiest month in New York in more than 85 years.
In Central Park, 19 inches of snow fell overnight in the storm that forced airports and schools to close. The wet snow fell at dizzying speeds during the height of the storm, as much as three inches per hour, said Weather Channel meteorologists.
New York officials vowed to keep the city running after Mayor Michael Bloomberg, agency heads and municipal workers came under heavy criticism for the slow response to the Christmas weekend blizzard that brought services to a halt.
"We learn," said Bloomberg at a City Hall news conference on Thursday. "We asked the questions of what didn't work last time and whether there's anything we could do differently."
The city suspended bus service shortly after midnight, he noted. In the Christmas blizzard, 600 city buses became stranded but with this suspension, almost no buses were stranded on Thursday, the mayor said.
Bus service was gradually being restored at midday.
Some 1,700 plows were working as of mid-morning in New York, the mayor said. About 1,500 day laborers were shoveling out bus stops as well.
"Our expectation is that by tomorrow morning's rush hour all of the city streets and roadways will have been plowed," Bloomberg said.
The storm, which dropped twice as much snow as had been predicted, brought the city's January total accumulation to 36 inches, breaking a record from 1925, the mayor said.
"This is so much worse than I think we all expected," said Julia Scharf, 27, a dental technician who commuted to New York from Bethpage, Long Island.
"I had to clean about 15 or so inches off my car before I could drive to the train station."
Commuter train and bus service from some suburbs, including Long Island, was limited or suspended. New York City schools were closed, only the ninth time since 1978 that schools were closed due to snow, the mayor said.
Flight delays of more than two hours were reported at Newark International and John F. Kennedy International airports, which had been closed due to the storm but reopened on Thursday morning, authorities said.
Delays were reported at Philadelphia International Airport where hundreds of flights were canceled due to snowfall that ranged from 12 to 17 inches in the city. About 1,500 passengers were stranded overnight, authorities said.
Nine people spent nine hours on a bus stuck in the snow in Philadelphia, said Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Most passengers got off the bus but those nine and the driver chose to remain rather than brave the elements, she said. The bus was heated, she noted.
"Their only choice was to stay on the bus," she said.
About 15,000 households south and west of Philadelphia lost power as tree limbs broke under the weight of wet snow and fell on power lines, according to the utility Peco.
In the Washington, D.C., area some commuters were stranded for several hours in massive traffic jams on Wednesday that stretched well into the night. Adding to the chaos were hundreds of cars abandoned on the roads by their drivers.
Although traffic improved in the morning, tens of thousands were without power in parts of the city and surrounding suburbs, mostly due to snow-laden trees downing utility lines. Many schools were closed throughout the area.
A second runway at Boston's Logan International Airport was closed, said spokesman Phil Orlandella.
The 9.9 inches of snow recorded at the Boston airport during the storm contributed to nearly 200 inbound and outbound flight cancellations, he said.
The National Weather Service said 19 inches of snow fell in Central Park, nearly 19 inches at Newark Airport and 18 inches in suburban New Canaan, Connecticut.
The snowfall was just shy of the Christmas blizzard that dropped 20 inches on New York City.
Amtrak suspended trains between New York and Boston but was resuming service, with delays likely, it said.
North of Boston, snow accumulation contributed to a partial roof collapse that trapped two people in a vehicle parked inside a building in Lynn, Mass., officials said. Initial reports showed the two had no serious injuries.
In weather-related deaths, a woman was struck and killed by a snowplow on Wednesday in Center Moriches, New York.
Police said the 64-year-old woman was walking in a parking lot mid-afternoon when she was hit by a truck clearing snow.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston, Jon Hurdle in Philadelphia, and Bernd Debusmann Jr. and Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Jerry Norton)