Storm drops more than 2 feet of snow in Northeast

A woman crosses Congress Street during a snow storm in Portland, Maine as the snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

BOSTON (AP/ABC7) A howling storm across the Northeast left the New York-to-Boston corridor shrouded in 1 to 3 feet of snow Saturday, stranding motorists on highways overnight and piling up drifts so high that some homeowners couldn't get their doors open. More than 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity.

At least three deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the wind-whipped snowstorm, including that of a New York man killed when the tractor he was using to plow his driveway ran off the edge of the road.

More than 38 inches of snow fell in Milford, Conn., and an 82 mph gust was recorded in nearby Westport. Areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire got at least 2 feet of snow, with more falling. Portland, Maine, received 29.3 inches, breaking the record set in 1979.

Roads in many places were impassable. Across much of New England, snowed-over cars looked like white blobs. Streets were mostly deserted save for snowplow crews and a few hardy souls walking dogs or venturing out to take pictures. In Boston's Financial District, the only sound was an army of snowblowers clearing sidewalks.

The digging-out went more smoothly in some places than in others.

A little more than 11 inches fell in New York, but the city "dodged a bullet" and was "in great shape," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, predicting streets would be cleared by the end of the day. The New York region's three major airports - LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. - were up and running again by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

But hundreds of motorists abandoned their vehicles on New York's Long Island, and even snowplows were getting stuck. Emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach stranded motorists, some of whom spent the night in their cars.

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and head for his home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

"There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing," he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said. "It was very icy under my car. That's why my car is still there."

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut closed roads to all but essential traffic.

Some of the worst of the storm appeared to hit Connecticut, where even emergency responders found themselves stuck on highways all night. In the shoreline community of Fairfield, police and firefighters could not come in to work, so the overnight shift was staying on duty, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau.

"It's a real challenge out there," Tetreau said. "The roads are not passable at this point. We are asking everyone to stay home and stay safe."

Several state police cars were also stuck in deep snow in Maine, where stranded drivers were warned to expect long waits for tow trucks.

Nearly 22 inches of snow fell in Boston and more was expected, closing in on the 2003 record of 27.6 inches. The archdiocese in the heavily Roman Catholic city reminded parishioners that under church law, the requirement to attend Sunday Mass "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation." Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night.

Flooding fears along the Massachusetts coast led to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury.

But 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 on Long Island. "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."

The Postal Service closed post offices and suspended mail delivery Saturday in New England.

"This is crazy. I mean it's just nuts," Eileen O'Brien said in blacked-out Sagamore Beach, Mass., as she cleared heavy snow from her deck for fear it might collapse.

As the pirate flag outside her door snapped and popped in gale-force winds Saturday, she said: "My thermostat keeps dropping. Right now it's 54 inside, and I don't have any wood. There's nothing I can do to keep warm except maybe start the grill and make some coffee."

In South Windsor, Conn., Bill Tsoronis used a snowblower to carve paths through huge snowdrifts in his neighborhood.

"I thought we might have 18 or 20 inches, but in some places it's up to my waist. It's more than I expected," he said. Still, he said the storm was not much more than a nuisance, since the neighborhood still had power, and he said he might gather with neighbors for cocktails later in the day.

His neighbor Mike Schroder said as he brushed snow off cars in his driveway that the storm lived up to the hype.

"This is finally one they got right," he said. He said the cleanup will take some time: "When the snow is higher than the snowblower, you're in trouble."

At Reagan National Airport Friday, security lines were long all day as travelers try to head north ahead of the blizzard.

Vanessa Olivarez has a one week leave from an air base in Italy. She will spend part of it stateside but not where she wants to be.

“It's been a year,” she says. “I just want to be home see my family stress free and happy.”

As the storm stopped transportation to the Northeast, some would-be travelers shifted into high gear. One of the few modes of transportation still available to New York City as the storm built and the day dragged on was the bus.

The Washington Deluxe sent a couple of buses off Friday afternoon. Seconds before one of the last buses pulled out, Kimberly Brown made her way aboard.

Some people just wanted to get to New York ahead of the blizzard. But for her, this trip is the result of a frantic and emotionally charged search.

“One of my aunts, she passed away, God bless,” Brown says. “I’m trying to make it there because if I don't make it there, I have no way of saying goodbye to her.”

Business traveler Nick Boedicker, who was supposed to come back to Washington Sunday after a weekend conference in New England, was stuck at Reagan National Airport as well.

“We really got unlucky because everything past ours from 12:30 on got canceled last night and everything this morning went out, so we couldn’t reschedule because it wasn’t officially canceled,” he says. “By the time it was, it was too late.”

Greyhound canceled bus service to New York at 4 p.m., making the train the only option heading north - with a warning that even service to New York may be disrupted soon.

For the latest on our local airports, you can get information at the following sites:

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Washington Dulles International Airport

For more information on flight cancellations and delays, you can check the FAA's website or Flight Aware. If you find yourself stuck delayed or have your flight canceled, you can find out more from your carrier.

Here's a list of contact numbers and websites for some of the largest airlines in the country.

Alaska Airlines (800) 252-7522 American Airlines (800) 433-7300 Delta Air Lines (800) 221-1212 Frontier Airlines (800) 432-1359 JetBlue Airways (800) 538-2583 Southwest Airlines (800) 435-9792 Spirit Airlines (800) 772-7117 United Airlines (800) 864-8331 US Airways (800) 428-4322

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