The U.S. northeast dug 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 storm stretched from Kentucky to New England but hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. As much as 35 centimeters of snow fell in Philadelphia, with New York City seeing almost as much, before tapering off.
The snowstorm was the second for New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who praised the job sanitation workers were doing to clear the streets.
"I think the city handled it very well," de Blasio said as he shovelled snow at his Brooklyn home Wednesday morning.
De Blasio said some streets couldn't be plowed because cars were in the way but added, "the minute they had the streets clear — in other words, there was not traffic in the way — sanitation did a remarkable job."
While Boston got only about 10 cm of snow, other parts of Massachusetts were socked with as many as 45 cm.
Ram Vyas, owner of Towers Liquor Mart in Weymouth, was shovelling his walkway Wednesday morning and getting ready for another busy day after the storm dropped about 40 cm of snow on the town, located about 24 kilometres south of Boston.
"It was very busy before the storm and now it will be busy after the storm," he said. "A lot of people have the day off from work, so they will be coming in to buy more alcohol, then watch TV, be with their families."
On Cape Cod, a blizzard warning in effect through Wednesday afternoon kept business brisk at Aubuchon Hardware in Sandwich, where salt and snow shovels were popular. "The flow of customers is pretty steady, but everyone waits until the worst of the storm to start worrying," manager Jeff Butland said.
Schools closed, flights cancelled
Boston and Philadelphia officials ordered schools closed Wednesday. Schools were also closed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. Federal workers in Washington who got a snow day Tuesday were getting a two-hour delay on Wednesday.
About 1,400 flights were cancelled Wednesday into and out of some of the nation's busiest airports, including in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, according to flight-tracking site flightaware.com. That was down from about 3,000 flights the day before.
Melody Martinez, 23, who was heading home to Miami after visiting her mother in New York, went to LaGuardia Airport, hoping to catch her 9:10 a.m. flight Wednesday, which was cancelled. She initially was told she couldn't get another flight until Thursday.
"I thought, 'Oh, no!"' said Martinez. "I have to go back to work tomorrow."
Martinez, who works in retail and attends Florida International University, eventually lucked out.
"Thank God I was able to get on a flight today," she said. She'd have to hang around the airport until 3 p.m., but she was still "very relieved."
Amtrak told passengers on its busiest line, the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, to expect fewer trains. Lines serving Harrisburg, Pa., and Albany, N.Y., also were slowed.
Gas prices spike
The storm was a conventional one that developed off the coast and moved its way 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. Nonetheless, bone-chilling temperatures settled in across the Northeast on Wednesday.
The newest wave of cold air helped to deplete fuel supplies and send prices for propane and natural gas to record highs. Higher natural gas prices also are leading to sharply higher wholesale electricity prices as power utilities snap up gas at almost any price to run power plants to meet higher-than-normal winter demand.
Propane users will get pinched the most. Those who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their tanks could be paying $100 to $200 more per fill-up than a month ago. Homeowners who use natural gas and electricity will see higher heating bills because they'll use more fuel. But prices won't rise dramatically because utilities buy only a small portion of the fuel at the elevated prices.