2010-02-11 / Features

Mid-Atlantic Carves Path Through Historic Snowfall

By Jessica Gresko ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Mid-Atlantic U.S. on Sunday began carving a path through the piles of wet, heavy snow in below-freezing temperatures while power crews tried to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes and clear streets for work on Monday.

The National Weather Service called the storm “historic’’ and reported a foot of snow in parts of Ohio and 2 feet or more in Washington, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia got closer to 3 feet.

Many roads reopened but officials continued to warn residents that highways could be icy and treacherous. The snow snapped tree limbs onto power lines and several roofs collapsed under the weight. In Washington, city officials said it was unclear if the roads would be clear enough for workers to get in on Monday.

Some people without electricity worried whether the power would return in time for Sunday night’s Super Bowl kickoff – though it was an afterthought for others just trying to stay warm.

Julia Nickles-Bryan and her husband, Charles Bryan, were more focused on keeping their twin 7-year-old daughters warm inside their College Park, Md., home – where the thermostat read 47 degrees. They had to make due with a gas stove, gas water heater and a fire in the fireplace.

“We’re basically camping,’’ Nickles-Bryan said. Asked if she liked camping, she said, “No.’’

In Philadelphia, 28.5 inches of snow fell Saturday, just shy of the record 30.7 inches during the January 1996 blizzard. Snow totals were even higher to the west in Pennsylvania, with 31 inches recorded in Upper Strasburg and 30 inches in Somerset.

Almost 18 inches of snow was recorded at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is closed. That’s the fourth-highest storm total for the city. At nearby Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the record was shattered with 32 inches. Flights there have resumed, but are severely limited.

Authorities say most public transportation in Philadelphia has resumed in the wake of the city’s second-largest snowfall. But in Pittsburgh, bus and lightrail service was suspended.

Jurij Bilyk, 48, was clearing snow from the front of his garage because he was on call as an eye surgeon at Will’s Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, which has an emergency room that can be hopping on holidays.

“Usually the biggest days are New Year’s Eve and July Fourth because of firecrackers,’’ he said. “Car accidents, fights – a lot of it’s fights. Super Bowl isn’t too bad if the Eagles aren’t playing.’’

Steve Bartholomew, 57, a Philadelphia math teacher out on a coffee run, said he was hoping for a snow day Monday as much as his students.

“I enjoy what I do and I like being in school – but it’s a gift from God,’’ he said.

In New Jersey, more than 90,000 customers lost power during the storm’s peak. By Sunday morning, 59,000 homes and businesses – nearly all in Cape May County – remained without power. Workers from other areas were pitching in and state crews were trying to clear roads.

In Washington, the sun was finally shining Sunday and the sounds of shovels could be heard on streets. Officials were urging people to keep thoroughfares clear to let plows get through.

The nation’s capital took on a surreal, almost magical feel Saturday even though it was one of the worst snowstorms in the city’s history. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, soldiers’ names were buried 16 rows deep. The wreaths of the World War II Memorial looked like giant whitefrosted doughnuts. The big attraction at the Lincoln Memorial was not the nation’s 16th president, but rather a snowman with eyes of copper pennies bearing Lincoln’s likeness.

President Barack Obama called it “Snowmageddon.’’ Even his motorcade – which featured SUVs instead of limousines – fell victim to the storm as a tree limb crashed onto a vehicle carrying press. No one was injured.

The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped more than 16 inches on Washington. According to the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870.

The heaviest on record was 28 inches in January 1922. The biggest snowfall for the Washington Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned in their diaries.

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