Snow storm crawls up to northeastern U.S. and the Maritimes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A fierce weekend storm that dropped record snowfall and stranded travellers up the U.S. East Coast from Virginia to the northeastern New England states turned out not to be as naughty as many had feared by Sunday — and its nicest accomplishment may simply be leaving many with the prospect of a very white Christmas.

Juanita Streat

Juanita Streat

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A fierce weekend storm that dropped record snowfall and stranded travellers up the U.S. East Coast from Virginia to the northeastern New England states turned out not to be as naughty as many had feared by Sunday — and its nicest accomplishment may simply be leaving many with the prospect of a very white Christmas.

The storm system also swept into the Maritimes on Sunday, prompting snowfall warnings for much of the southern half of Nova Scotia.

In the United States, residents mostly holed up for the weekend, then dug out from as much as 60 centimetres of snow to find sunny, mostly calm skies under a blanket of white unspoiled by car exhaust and passers-by.

Neighbours shovelling snow in front of their homes Sunday in the east side of Providence shrugged it off as a mild inconvenience that had the decency to come on a weekend.

“It’s less of a disruption,” said Chloe Kline, a 35-year-old musician. “I don’t have to get out to go to school or work or anything like that.”

To the south, others struggled with the aftermath of the storm that stranded hundreds of motorists in Virginia and knocked out power to thousands, but could have been much worse.

On the cusp of the winter solstice, the storm dropped 40 centimetres of snow Saturday on Reagan National Airport outside Washington — the most ever recorded there for a single December day — and gave southern New Jersey its highest single-storm snowfall totals in nearly four years.

The National Weather Service said the storm gave Philadelphia, which began keeping records in 1884, its second-largest snowfall: 58.9 centimetres. Even more was recorded in the Philadelphia suburb of Medford at 61 centimetres.

Around New York City, the brunt of the storm hit Long Island to the east, with whiteout conditions and 66.8 centimetres of snow in Upton, a record since measurements began in 1949. Nearly 28 centimetres of snow fell on New York City.

Pragmatic New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg encouraged residents and holiday visitors to take advantage of cancellations by seeing a Broadway show. The mayor said city retailers weren’t hard hit because the snow held off until late Saturday.

Environment Canada said six counties in Nova Scotia — Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne, Lunenburg, Halifax and Queens — were expecting 15 to 25 centimetres of snow.

There were also blowing snow warnings for those counties, making for treacherous driving in near zero visibility.

The snow started before noon in southwestern Nova Scotia and stretched eastward into the Halifax area by late afternoon.

There were numerous flight delays at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, along with a few cancellations of flights originating in the snowbound northeastern United States.

Lesser amounts of snow were expected in northern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Airports in the U.S. Northeast that were jammed up Saturday were working their way back to normal operations. About 1,200 flights at the New York City area’s three major airports remained cancelled despite clear conditions on the runways.

By Sunday morning, one runway at Dulles International Airport in Washington was open, handling arriving flights, spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said.

Philadelphia International Airport shut down Saturday night but began to reopen early Sunday.

The storm began wreaking misery Friday in South Florida, where it caused flooding and knocked out electricity in the Carolinas before turning to snow as it moved north.

— With files from The Canadian Press.

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