Winter Storm Blasts Northeast

Tuesday, March 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Snarling air travel across the country and overseas, a powerful storm plastered the Northeast with snow and ice Monday in an expected two-day assault that could be the region's biggest blast of winter in years.

A man uses a snowblower to clear a sidewalk in Waterbury, Conn., on Monday.

One to 3 feet of snow was forecast to fall across much of New Jersey, New York and New England by early Wednesday.

Schools were closed Monday for millions of youngsters from West Virginia to Maine.

The storm had been forecast days in advance, and people had plenty of time to stock up on groceries, snow shovels and videos, stripping shelves bare in some stores.

"It's like they're never going to eat again," Mavis McLynn said as she shopped at a supermarket in Philadelphia.

The heaviest snowfall from the slow-moving storm was expected Tuesday, but by Monday a foot or more had fallen in upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania. Elsewhere, sleet and freezing rain glazed sidewalks and highways.

Meteorologists warned that the storm could be similar to the blizzard of 1978, which buried southern New England in 3 feet of snow, caused more than 100 deaths and battered the coast with high waves.

"Sandbags aren't going to help a bit in this case. If it comes, it's going to come," said emergency official Mark Zartarian at the shore town of Rye, N.H. "If it's anything like '78, it's going to lift and move boulders the size of your car."

New York's Education Department estimated 90 percent of the state's public and private schools were closed, affecting 3.1 million students, including 1.1 million in New York City. Every school in Connecticut was shuttered, keeping more than 500,000 kids at home. In Boston, about 62,000 youngsters got the day off. Philadelphia schools closed early, and hundreds of thousands of students were sent home.

Airlines canceled hundreds of flights at the New York metropolitan area's LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports, and more than 400 flights were called off at Boston's airport. Despite days of warnings from forecasters, some travelers wound up stranded at airports.

"I've been here so long it seems like years," said Joshua McKinley, 21, who was among the weary travelers who spent the night on cots at LaGuardia.

Elsewhere, people just coped with the weather.

"Shovel it, move it and life goes on," Mike Cyktich advised in Buffalo, N.Y., where Monday's 5 inches by early afternoon brought this season's total to 136 inches, or more than 11 feet.