NEW YORK – Road crews scrambled to clear streets and travelers stranded at airports tried to get home Monday as the Northeast dug out from a record-breaking storm that dumped two feet or more of snow across the region.
Utility workers were restoring power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses left in the dark. Winds gusting up to 50 mph knocked down power lines.
The storm blanketed the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Maine over the weekend, dropping 26.9 inches of snow in Central Park — the heaviest snowfall since record-keeping began in 1869. The old record was 26.4 inches in December 1947, the National Weather Service said.
While the storm was bad, it would have been worse on a weekday.
"The headache has been minimized because it happened on a Sunday," Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Maloit said. "It was good timing for a storm of this magnitude."
In Fairfield, Conn., 30.2 inches of snow fell. Rahway, N.J., got 27 inches, according to unofficial observations reported to the National Weather Service. Just west of Philadelphia, 21 inches of snow were recorded in West Caln Township; the average snowfall for an entire winter in Philadelphia is about 21 inches.
Children were thrilled to dig out their sleds, little-used this winter until now.
"We're hoping for 365 days off from school," said 9-year-old Reagan Manz, playing in Central Park with friends. "We could go sledding the whole time and not get bored."
Philadelphia public and parochial classes were canceled Monday, as were schools throughout central and northeast Maryland. New York City public schools were open, although some in Long Island and private schools were closed.
Two of the three major New York-area airports — Kennedy and Newark — had reopened with limited service. A Turkish Airlines flight skidded off a runway at Kennedy as it landed Sunday at 9:20 p.m., but none of the 198 passengers was injured, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The airport closures and grounded planes stranded travelers across the country. About 7,500 people were stuck at Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, spokesman Steve Belleme said.
"Our car's in Newark. We can't even get close to there," said Maria Martinez, whose flight from Miami International Airport was canceled. "We can't even get to Philadelphia or D.C."
Some passengers also were stranded on the Long Island Rail Road, where trains got stuck on snow-covered tracks, officials said. One train was marooned for five hours.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 2,200 snow plows and 350 salt spreaders were working to clear the city's 6,300 miles of streets by Monday's rush hour. He said 2,500 Department of Sanitation employees were working in 12-hour shifts, and temporary workers were being hired at $10 an hour to shovel snow.
In New Jersey, officials expected the roads to be cleared Monday.
The storm knocked out power across the Northeast, most severely in Maryland, where more than 150,000 customers were blacked out. More than 55,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric Company customers remained without power late Sunday, and officials said it would not likely be fully restored until Tuesday. "We're just going to have to continue to attack it," said spokesman Rob Gould.