BOSTON - A howling blizzard slammed the Northeast on Sunday with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane-strength wind gusts, halting air travel for thousands of people, keeping others off slippery highways and burying parked cars under deep drifts.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri both declared states of emergency.
Up to 29 inches of snow fell north of Boston, parts of New Hampshire got 2 feet, New York’s Catskills collected at least 20 inches and 18 inches fell on parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island. The weather system had earlier piled a foot of snow across parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and northern Ohio.
At least six deaths were linked to the weather, three in Ohio, two in Wisconsin and one in Pennsylvania.
Wind gusted to 84 mph on Nantucket and the entire island off the southeast coast of Massachusetts and its 9,400 winter customers were plunged into darkness Sunday. On the mainland, some 16,000 customers lost power, the utility InStar said. Smaller outages were reported elsewhere around the Northeast.
Because the wind blowing off the ocean coincided with a full moon and high tide, coastal communities were warned of flooding.
“There’s a lot of self-evacuations going on. People simply got out of Dodge,” Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said Sunday morning. National Guard troops helped evacuate part of Scituate, 20 miles south of Boston, but morning high tide receded without significant flooding, he said.
As state and city officials urged residents to stay off the roads, many people tried to take the storm in stride.
Bill Bush, 32, waded through drifts across the deserted Boston Common to pick up some things at his office for a trip Monday, then headed home for Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I figured it’s early and it’s nice to get out to see the snow before everyone dirtied it up,” he said. “There’s nowhere to go, so I’ll just grab some friends to come over to watch the game.”
For others, towering snowdrifts and whiteout conditions wiped out travel plans.
Boston’s Logan International Airport closed early Sunday because snowplow crews couldn’t keep up with the blinding snow.
“It’s more likely we’ll open tomorrow morning,” said Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for the airport that normally has 900 flights on a Sunday.
Logan’s shutdown meant Shawn Simmons, 28, of Nashua, N.J., was stuck at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on his return from a vacation in South America.
“Coming from Brazil, where it was 80 degrees, to 14 degrees and snow up here, is such a pain,” said Simmons, who planned to find a train to take him home.
Nearly 500 flights were canceled Sunday morning at the New York metropolitan area’s Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, in addition to about 700 that were grounded Saturday, Port Authority officials said.
Cassie Szczotka of Marietta, Ga., wound up at a motel in Trenton, N.J., late Saturday after trying all day to get from Atlanta to Fort Dix, N.J., to see her husband, Capt. Chris Szczotka, who is about to be deployed to Iraq for 16 months.
“You have no idea,” an exhausted Szczotka said Sunday of her trip, which included canceled and diverted flights, two trains and being stranded with a 7-year-old and a toddler at the Trenton train station until a local resident drove her to the motel. She rented a car Sunday and hoped to see her husband before he went back on duty Monday morning.
Philadelphia’s airport was open again Sunday, after a shutdown and flight cancellations on Saturday stranded hundreds of travelers at the terminal overnight, but more than 70 departures were canceled. Nearly 600 flights were canceled Saturday at Chicago’s O’Hare International.
For others, the storm brought ideal conditions for skiing, snowboarding and sledding.
“Once everyone shovels out, we’re going to have a great day, a record breaker,” said Rod Taylor, owner of Woodbury Ski Area in Woodbury, Conn. “People see the snow and they get excited.”