A swirling storm clobbered parts of the mid-Atlantic and the urban northeast of the US on Tuesday, dumping nearly 45cm of snow, grounding thousands of flights, closing government offices in the US capital and making a mess of the evening commute.
The storm stretched 1,600km between Kentucky and Massachusetts, but hit especially hard along the heavily populated corridor between Philadelphia and Boston, creating perilous rides home for millions of motorists.
The National Weather Service said Manalapan, New Jersey, got 39cm of snow, while Philadelphia’s airport saw 34cm. It said parts of New York City had 28cm.
The snow came down harder and faster than many people expected. A blizzard warning was posted for parts of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod.
Highways in the New York City metropolitan area were jammed and blowing snow tripled or even quadrupled drive times.
Parts of the northeastern New England saw initial light snowfalls turn heavier as the night wore on. Foxboro, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, each received about 28cm of snow by midnight, while Stamford, Connecticut, got 23cm. Forecasters said the storm could be followed by bitter cold as arctic air from Canada streams in.
In Maryland, the storm was blamed for at least one death in the state, that of a driver whose car fishtailed into the path of a tractor-trailer on a snow-covered road 80km northwest of Baltimore.
Police said the storm might have claimed more lives: A preliminary investigation showed wet conditions played a role in a two-vehicle crash that killed two people in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
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.
This second fierce blast of winter weather is sapping fuel supplies in many regions in the US, sending prices of propane and natural gas to record highs.
Customers who heat with natural gas or electricity probably will not see dramatically higher prices, in part because utilities typically purchase their fuel under longer-term contracts at set prices, but propane customers who find themselves suddenly needing to fill their tanks could be paying US$100 to US$200 more than they did a month ago.
About 3,000 flights were canceled on Tuesday, with airports from Washington to Boston affected.