More than a million homes and businesses were left in darkness and cold Wednesday after snow, sleet and freezing rain moved into the Northeast. The region's second winter storm of the week canceled classes, closed government and business offices and sent cars and trucks sliding on slippery roads and highways. Around a foot of snow fell in some states. Moving in overnight from the Midwest, where it wreaked similar havoc, the storm tested the region already battered by a series of heavy snows and below-freezing temperatures this winter.
Ice and snow brought down trees and limbs and knocked out power to some 750,000 customers. Most of the outages were in the Philadelphia suburbs, and PECO, the major utility company, warned it could be the weekend before some people get their lights back on. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed around Harrisburg, the state capital, for more than 13 hours after a fatal crash Tuesday night. Gov. Tom Corbett signed a disaster emergency proclamation, freeing up state agencies to use all available resources and personnel to respond to the storm. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Administration reported delays and some cancellations on suburban Philadelphia routes, while Amtrak suspended its Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg service indefinitely because of downed trees on wires and along tracks. Many schools were closed.
Up to a foot of snow fell in places upstate; hundreds of schools upstate were closed. Four inches of snow and a quarter-inch of ice covered New York City. The state deployed 3,500 tons of stockpiled road salt to New York City, where supplies were running low, while plows and other heavy equipment aimed to keep roads clear. A 65-mile stretch of Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders was closed to all vehicles until mid-afternoon. The Metropolitan Transit Authority said Metro-North Railroad service was reduced by 18 percent on morning trains.
Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and state offices were closed for non-essential employees, as the state got snow in northern parts, sleet and freezing rain in some areas, and all rain in southern counties. Tens of thousands of customers were without power, and schools were closed or delayed. NJ Transit operated on a storm schedule. Buses and trains were cross-honoring tickets.
The state received more than 6 inches of snow in some areas, snarling traffic and keeping towing operators busy. AAA Michigan got at least 1,100 calls for service Wednesday morning. Authorities reported several multi-vehicle crashes after snow fell along Interstate 94 in the Jackson area; traffic accidents closed parts of Interstate 69 around Flint. The storm also snarled traffic in southern Michigan, including Detroit. Two planes became stuck on taxiways at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, requiring trucks to push or pull the regional Delta jets to free them.
Most of Ohio was hit with heavy snow and freezing rain, closing hundreds schools and creating extremely hazardous driving conditions. Four to 8 inches of snow fell overnight Tuesday. Many counties declared snow emergencies. "I wish that groundhog would have stayed in its hole," said Geoff Dunn, who took the bus to his downtown Columbus office. "Finding us six more weeks of winter was not the smart move." The National Weather Service said most Ohio cities already have seen anywhere from 15 to 30 inches more snow than is normal at this stage of winter because of the frequent winter storms.
A Chicago runner was credited with helping save a man who fell into icy Lake Michigan with his dog. Adam Dominik says he found twine and anchored it around himself while throwing the other end in the water, pulling the man onto nearby rocks. Meanwhile, a skier called 911. Rescuers pulled the man the rest of the way to safety. He was taken to a hospital. Both he and his dog were expected to recover.
Freezing rain and ice that moved through Kentucky overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday left thousands without power, mostly in Jefferson County, where about 10,000 customers had no lights early Wednesday. The National Weather Service said the winter storm left about a quarter-inch of ice over much of central and northern Kentucky. Several schools canceled classes. In one central Kentucky county, warming stations were opened for people without heat.
The storm dropped nearly a foot in parts of Massachusetts. In Boston, Worcester, Springfield and elsewhere, schools and colleges canceled classes. The state's trial courts also closed for the day. Gov. Deval Patrick told all non-essential state employees working in the executive branch to stay home.
Nearly all schools in Rhode Island were closed, and state police responded to several traffic accidents. The General Assembly canceled its sessions. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority warned of delays. Snow turned to sleet and rain in some parts of the state.
The start of the General Assembly's annual session was delayed from Wednesday to Thursday because of the snow. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also ordered a delayed opening for state offices on Wednesday. Many schools were closed. Metro-North Railroad said the storm disabled a few commuter trains, forcing riders to transfer to other rail cars, while a few trains were canceled. Ridership was cut in half as thousands of commuters stayed home.
Authorities said snowy road conditions may have contributed to a vehicle collision in Des Moines that killed one person.
Classes were canceled at many Oklahoma schools, including Oklahoma City, because of subzero wind chills that reached 10 degrees below zero.
A Southwest Airlines jet arriving from Denver got stuck in a snow bank Tuesday evening at Kansas City International Airport. A Southwest spokesman said all 55 passengers on Flight 305 were placed on buses and taken to the terminal.
With the severe weather, homeowners in far northern Wisconsin were urged to leave their faucets running 24 hours a day to prevent water pipes and sewer lines from freezing. The 9,000 Rhinelander residents won't be charged for using the extra water. Temperatures in the area were expected to be below zero for much of the week.
At the Mount Sunapee Resort ski area, the lot was filling up with skiers undeterred by a trek through the snow. In Newport, the snow helped pick up the pace of ticket sales for an outdoor "Yankee Luau" on the town common Wednesday as part of the town's 98th Winter Carnival. The snow boded well for skijoring events this weekend, a popular attraction that had to be canceled the past two years because of a lack of snow. The sport features horseback riders towing a person on skis over jumps and through other obstacles.
Indiana was socked with up to a foot of snow. Several major highways were closed for a time, including Interstate 65 north of Lafayette and south of Indianapolis, and Interstate 74 in southeastern Indiana.
The Maryland Transit Administration reduced the number of afternoon trains out of Washington on the MARC Brunswick line. Two morning trains hit fallen trees on the tracks; no one was hurt. Passengers on the first disabled train were put on a later train that also hit a fallen tree about a mile down the line, and the passengers were transferred again.
In Kansas, two traffic deaths Tuesday south of Pittsburg in Crawford County were blamed on the weather; a third, near Hesston, was believed weather related.
By Wednesday evening, power outages remained above 1 million. They included: Pennsylvania, 750,000; Maryland, 140,000; New Jersey, 44,000; Arkansas, 48,000; Kentucky, 10,000; New York, 8,000; Delaware, 6,000; Indiana, 2,500; Connecticut, 300.