Top Five Blizzard Blankets New England, Midwest

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 24, 2005 (ENS) - The first blizzard since the April storm of 1997 has blanketed New England with a historic snowfall over the past 36 hours. Ranked as one of the top five blizzards in history by the National Weather Service, the snow, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures grounded planes at major east coast airports, stranding thousands of travellers.

Governors in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have declared states of emergency.

At least 13 deaths were blamed on the weather across the Northeast and Midwest area - three in Connecticut, two in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland three in Ohio, one in Iowa and three in Wisconsin.

Hundreds of flights in and out of New York, Boston and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were cancelled Saturday.

New York's Port Authority reports 1,225 flights were cancelled Sunday at the New York area's three airports; there are up to five hour arrival delays and up to three hour departure delays for those flights that are moving.

The Port Authority has mobilized about 1,000 employees and more than 200 pieces of snow equipment at the airports - including new multi-use units that can plow, brush, and blow snow at 35 mph, melters that can liquefy up to 500 tons of snow an hour, and plows that can clear snow at 40 mph.

On Sunday night, the City of New York Department of Transportation and Department of Sanitation lifted the snow emergency they had declared on Saturday. Philadelphia International Airport reopened Sunday after being closed late Saturday because of poor visibility, but delays and flight cancellations were reported at other airports including some in New Jersey, Baltimore in Maryland, and Washington.

Preliminary snow accumulations from the NOAA National Weather Service for some cities across Massachusetts soared past the three foot mark by mid-afternoon Sunday. Salem had 38 inches; Melrose, 36 inches, Boston, 26 inches. Total snow accumulations in some parts of the state may exceed six feet in height due to blowing and drifting snow.

Damaging hurricane force winds of 74 miles per hour (mph) and higher were reported Sunday along the coast of eastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket. A storm spotter in Sandwich, reported wind gusting to 83 mph on Sunday.


Snow in Boston piled up to nearly three feet, burying cars. (Photo credit unknown)
Snow accumulation figures from the National Weather Service showed more than three feet by mid-afternoon Sunday. Salem, Massachusetts had 38 inches, up to 32 inches fell north of Boston, parts of New Hampshire got 24 inches, and Rutherford New Jersey was buried under 21 inches of snow by Sunday morning. Total snow accumulations in some parts of New Jersey may exceed six feet in height due to blowing and drifting snow.

The Catskill Mountains of New York were hit by 20 inches, and 18 inches of snow fell on parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The eastern end of New York's Long Island got 18 inches plus 73 mile per hour wind gusts.

Earlier, the same weather system dumped 12 inches of snow on Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and northern Ohio.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said the storm is likely to "be a record-setting snowstorm in Boston when comparing against data dating back to 1892."

In Maine, the blizzard warning continued in effect until midnight, with blow and drifting snow making road travel hazardous. A blowing snow advisory continues for all of east coastal Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the islands. Strong winds trailing the departing snowstorm will cause blowing and drifting of snow across the region.

As of this morning, the snow will move north into the Canadian Maritime provinces, and Northeastern coastal areas can begin to dig themselves out.

Farther south, a gale warning is in effect for Chesapeake Bay and for an area of the Atlantic coast from Georgia to southern Florida. Florida is chilly - the NWS warns of temperatures below freezing penetrating into central Florida.

At the same time, the NWS has issued a fire weather watch for much of North and Central Georgia including the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests that is in effect all day today. "Dry moisture conditions will combine with relative humidities of 15 to 20 percent. This will create dangerous fire weather conditions," the service said.

The National Weather Service forecasts that the overall weather pattern appears to be "relatively quiet" for most of the United States for the next five to six days.