PHILADELPHIA — A winter storm dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow on parts of the eastern United States on Monday, snarling commutes and Super Bowl fans’ trips home, closing schools and government offices, and cutting power.
Fat flakes fell in Philadelphia and New York, creating slushy sidewalks and streets and all but erasing the memory of Sunday’s weather in the 50s. The storm began moving out of the region Monday afternoon, making way for another system expected to sweep in from the Plains with ice and snow in time for the this afternoon’s rush hour.
In Indiana County, snow began falling late Sunday evening and continued through Monday, creating difficult driving conditions and possibly contributing to several reported traffic accidents. The Blairsville-Saltsburg School District canceled classes for the day.
The Pennsylvania American Water Co.’s station along Two Lick Creek in White Township measured 1.5 inches of new snow between 7 a.m. Monday and 7 a.m. today.
[PHOTO: Newly fallen snow blanketed Pine Ridge Park near Blairsville on Monday, where playground equipment provided a splash of color to the monochrome scene. Another winter storm is expected to move through the region tonight. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)]
The National Weather Service posted a winter storm warning for the region, taking effect at 7 p.m. today and ending at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The region could expect accumulations of one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of ice, and 3 to 7 inches of snow, with temperatures in the mid- to upper-20s and winds gusting to 20 mph.
Most of the precipitation is expected between midnight and daybreak, according to the weather service. Treacherous travel conditions could develop, and the weight of the snow and ice could break tree limbs and utility wires.
At the direction of Governor Corbett, PennDOT has granted a temporary waiver on certain restrictions on commercial drivers to allow for continued smooth delivery of salt supplies for road-clearing during winter storms.
“Forecasts are calling for more storms in the next few days, and we want to take steps now to ensure that salt supplies are adequate to meet the mission to keep drivers moving,” said PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch. “The waiver will help us and municipalities meet our respective goals.”
The waiver extends the limits on hours of service for salt delivery drivers. Drivers usually must take a mandatory rest period after 11 hours behind the wheel. Under the waiver, the limit for driving hours is extended to 14 hours.
Exemption is also granted from the requirements of the 60/70-hour limits rule. This rule requires drivers to stop driving upon accumulating 60 or 70 on-duty hours (including all on-duty and driving time) over a period of seven or eight consecutive days, respectively. Any period of seven or eight consecutive days may end with the beginning of any off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours.
A similar waiver is in place for home heating fuel deliveries through Feb. 11 or until emergency conditions end.
The weather service reported about 8 inches of snow Monday near Frostburg, Md., while parts of southern Ohio and West Virginia got about 10 inches. Totals in the Philadelphia area ranged from 3 to 9 inches; New York saw as much as 7 inches by 3 p.m.
Government offices, courts and schools closed in parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; scattered power outages were reported throughout the region. Speed limits were reduced on many major highways.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency with travel conditions hazardous. Nonessential government employees were dismissed early.
By late afternoon, the flight-tracking website FlightAware reported more than 4,300 delayed flights and 1,900 canceled flights nationwide in cities including Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., and New York. Inbound flights to those airports were delayed one to three hours because of snow and ice.
Russ Louderback, of Fishers, Ind., and his 11-year-old son Mason had gone to New York to see the Super Bowl but suffered a triple whammy of bad luck: Their beloved Denver Broncos lost, they got stuck in an hours-long traffic jam leaving the stadium and their 3 p.m. flight home Monday was canceled.
“It was so congested we couldn’t get out of New Jersey, even though we left early because our team lost,” said Louderback, 57, a hotel executive.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was among the stranded travelers after her return flight to Phoenix was canceled Monday, a spokesman said. Brewer attended the big game as part of the ceremonial handoff of hosting duties; next year’s Super Bowl is in Glendale, Ariz.
Francois Emond, of Alma, Quebec, arrived at Newark Airport at 6 a.m. Monday to find his flight home had been canceled. Wearing a Seahawks championship hat and an ear-to-ear smile, he said he didn’t care about the cancellation or the weather in light of Seattle’s victory. He planned to spend an extra night at his hotel in New York.
“The night will be very short,” Emond said. “When you win a Super Bowl for the first time, the night is very, very short.”
In Connecticut, 71-year-old architect Frank Emery described messy conditions outside as he stopped at a coffee shop in New Haven.
“A lot of people must have called in sick after the Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s not cleaned up as well as usual.”
In Philadelphia, the airport experienced weather delays as long as four hours at one point Monday morning. But the flight home for Seahawks fan George Shiley, 50, of Snohomish, Wash., remained on schedule at midday.
Shiley, a Seattle season ticket holder, had won a lottery for Super Bowl tickets. He and his buddy stayed in Philadelphia, about 85 miles southwest of the stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“It’s been a great trip. I joked that ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ — and it was, until today,” said Shiley, referring to the FX sitcom.
At least two deaths and one serious injury were blamed on the storm. In western Kentucky, where the snow began falling Sunday, a 24-year-old man died that night when his car skidded into a snowplow. On Monday, a 73-year-old New York City man was fatally struck by a backhoe that was moving snow.
A 10-year-old girl was in serious condition after she was impaled by a metal rod while sledding north of Baltimore.
Another storm is likely to hit the same region beginning tonight, bringing a combination of rain, freezing rain and snow, said Gary Szatkowsi, a weather service meteorologist in Mount Holly, N.J.
Perhaps residents shouldn’t be surprised, considering groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter on Sunday.
There’s also a possibility for a storm this weekend, Szatkowski said.
“I like to say Punxsutawney Phil agrees with me,” he said. “Winter’s not over, that’s for sure.”
The Indiana Gazette contributed to this report, along with Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik in New York; Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J.; Karen Testa in Philadelphia; Bob Christie in Phoenix; and John Christoffersen in New Haven, Conn.