NEW YORK – Residents of the U.S. Northeast dug themselves out Wednesday from a snowstorm that grounded flights, shuttered schools and left a bitter cold in its wake, while a blizzard swept across parts of Atlantic Canada.
The atmosphere was particularly frosty in New York, where some residents complained that plowing was spotty and schools were open while children elsewhere in the region stayed home.
The weather in the United States seemed more than a bit topsy-turvy, with Alaska seeing warmer average temperatures than the Lower 48 states. The average for the Lower 48 midmorning Wednesday was a chilly 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5.5 Celsius), compared to 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-4.44 Celsius) for the entire state of Alaska, according to calculations by Weather Bell Analytics meteorologist Ryan Maue.
The storm stretched from Kentucky to New England but hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. As much as 14 inches of snow fell in Philadelphia, with New York City seeing almost the same amount, with the snowfall eventually tapering off.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio, facing one of the first flash points of his weeks-old tenure, initially defended what he called a “coordinated, intense, citywide response” to a storm he said caused a worse-than-expected headache when it ramped up at rush hour. And De Blasio, who campaigned on the promise of closing gaps between rich and poor city residents, initially rebuffed complaints that the effort had lagged on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side, saying “no one was treated differently.”
But he backtracked Wednesday evening, saying he’d determined “more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side.”
About 1,400 flights were canceled Wednesday into and out of some of the nation’s busiest airports, including those in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, according to aviation company Flightaware. That was down from about 3,000 flights the day before.
The storm was a conventional one that developed off the coast and moved up the Eastern Seaboard, pulling in cold air from the Arctic. Unlike the epic freeze of two weeks ago, it was not caused by a kink in the polar vortex, the winds that circulate around the North Pole.
Environment Canada said there were two distinct phases to the storm there, with the first bringing up to 2 inches of snow on Tuesday night through Wednesday morning in western Nova Scotia and the Halifax area.
A second, more powerful blow hit later, dumping heavier snowfall amounts that were expected to reach up to a foot in Nova Scotia and nearly as much in southeastern New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island by late Wednesday. Similar amounts were predicted for western Newfoundland through Wednesday night.