National Guard Ready for Snowstorm


Monday, March 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Hundreds of airline flights into and out of the Northeast were canceled Monday and more than a million kids got the day off from school as a nor'easter that threatened to be the worst in years blasted the region with snow and ice.

Winter storm watches were in effect from West Virginia to Maine, with 2 feet of snow likely in some inland areas and even 3 feet possible in parts of upstate New York, western Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the National Weather Service said.

``This storm will rank up in the top 10 of March storms,'' said weather service meteorologist Greg DeVoir.

The heaviest snowfall was expected Tuesday, with blizzard or near-blizzard conditions, but flakes started appearing Sunday and by Monday morning a foot or more had already collected in parts of upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania. Elsewhere in the region, sleet and freezing rain coated sidewalks and highways.

People had heeded the storm forecasts during the weekend and cleaned out hardware store supplies of snow shovels and supermarket stocks of bread and milk.

``I've had numerous customers take two carts of stuff, like they're going to get snowed in for the weekend, like we're back in 'Little House on the Prairie' times,'' said Joe Jancsarics, manager at Redner's Warehouse Market in Trexlertown, Pa.

Children were told to stay home from school Monday in districts scattered from West Virginia to Maine, including the 1.1 million students of the New York City school system and some 62,000 in Boston.

Nonessential government workers were told to stay home in Connecticut, New York City's suburban counties, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

``This is a matter of public safety,'' said New Jersey's acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco. ``This is about warning people, protecting people.''

``The problem is not getting to work. It's getting home from work,'' said DiFrancesco's spokesman, Tom Wilson.

Airlines canceled hundreds of flights at the New York metropolitan area's LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports, and more than 300 flights were called off at Boston's Logan Airport.

Some travelers found themselves 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.

McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey closed for the day, officials said.

Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland banned tractor-trailer rigs from state highways to avoid wrecks that in past storms paralyzed highways and impeded cleanup efforts, and in Massachusetts all bus service between Cape Cod and Boston was canceled.

Northeasterly wind whistling in off the ocean was expected to create shoreline flooding. Tides of 7 to 9 feet above normal were possible along the New Jersey shore, where residents of barrier islands were urged to evacuate.

At Ocean Grove, N.J., 10-foot waves crashed against the end of the town's fishing pier after Monday morning's high tide, when the surf washed much of the way across some 200 yards of newly replenished beach.

``I come here every day with the dog, and I've never seen it come up this far,'' said Bill Kearsley, 46, as he walked his Labrador retriever, Sand Pebbles.

The New Jersey National Guard deployed 200 troops and was prepared to call in 10,000 reservists. Coast Guard aircraft ships and aircraft were in position in case of emergencies at sea, said Lt. Michael Bolz in Boston.

Utilities had emergency crews on standby. PECO Energy, which serves 425,000 customers in southeastern Pennsylvania, planned to have employees working 12- to 16-hour shifts Monday if the storm caused outages, said spokesman Michael Wood.

``Typically what happens with a nor'easter is you get swirling wind. It just knocks the trees, especially weaker ones, over,'' Wood said.

Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, W.Va., canceled live racing Sunday because jockeys refused to ride.

``The jockeys couldn't even see across the track because it was snowing so hard,'' said Lenora Beaumont, a receptionist at the track.