A gigantic midwinter storm buried the Northeast in snow Saturday, leaving behind a debilitated and disoriented region digging through plump white drifts and reeling from gale-force winds.
Painting a white landscape from Maine to New York, the storm expressed itself much as weather forecasters had predicted. New York City eluded the storm’s worst bite, and muffled-up pedestrians trooped along slushy sidewalks as insouciantly as after any matter-of-fact winter snowfall. But points to the north and east were battered hard.
More than 3 feet of snow fell on parts of Connecticut, and more than 2 feet accumulated on Long Island and in Massachusetts, causing coastal flooding that forced evacuations of some Massachusetts communities.
Hundreds of thousands of people shivered without power in the biting cold. Wind gusts of 80 mph cut power lines and toppled trees.
The storm, spawned by the collision of two weather systems, touched more than 40 million people, though early reports suggested it accounted for only a handful of deaths. One awful case involved a young boy shoveling snow with his father in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after he retreated inside a car to warm up. The exhaust pipe was blocked by snow.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed relief at a Saturday morning news conference that the city had avoided worse damage and offered to assist the more heavily pounded neighboring states and Long Island, the hardest-hit part of New York state. Most of the roads in the city, he said, were well on the way to being cleared, and he thanked people for staying off the streets. The accumulation in Central Park was measured at 11.4 inches by the time the snow relented at daybreak Saturday.
“I think it is fair to say we were very lucky,” Bloomberg said.
But for many areas, “this storm will rank in the top five of recorded snowstorms,” said David Stark, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Suffolk County, on Long Island. Outside his office, measurements have been taken since 1949, and this storm beat them all with 30.9 inches.
“The way this evolved was a very classic winter nor’easter,” Stark said. “The way it formed and moved is well understood, and it is the type of situation we have seen in the past — but this storm brought more moisture and therefore more snow.”
The National Weather Service received reports of flooding up and down the Massachusetts coast, especially in those areas just north and south of Boston. Water carrying slabs of ice sloshed through the streets and lapped against houses. The National Guard was dispatched to assist in evacuations.
Waves off the South Shore of Boston and parts of Cape Cod measured as high as 20 feet. Two feet of water was observed in Winthrop, Mass., just north of Boston. Waters breached a sea wall in the Humarock section of Scituate, while roads in Gloucester, Marblehead and Revere were reported flooded or impassable.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said New York would send crews to Connecticut and Massachusetts to help remove snow and restore power.