Cities Across Northeast, Midwest Dig Out From Winter Storm

People are digging out after the year's first big winter storm dumped snow and dropped temperatures from Michigan to Maine. Flights were delayed, roads were closed, and several deaths were reported. But most residents seem to feel that it could have been much worse.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

After pummeling the Midwest, a big winter storm hit the Northeast today, dumping snow up and down I-95. Flights were canceled, major highways closed. Boston took on almost two feet. Up to 10 inches fell on New York City, where the new mayor has only been in office two days. And that's where our coverage begins this hour with NPR's Zoe Chace.

ZOE CHACE, BYLINE: I'm standing here in the snow and the cold and the sun in Woodside, Queens. Now, the snow in Queens has brought down New York City mayors before. 40 odd years ago, Mayor John Lindsay. Streets out here were unplowed. People were stuck. Garbage uncollected. It took days for the mayor to get out here. And when he did, his limousine couldn't make it through the streets.

But today, New York City's brand-new mayor, Bill de Blasio, he showed up in Queens, right out here at the sanitation workers repair shop, where snow plows have been coming in and out all night in Woodside, Queens.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: We are going to make the point in everything we do. All boroughs are created equal.

CHACE: The message, this mayor does not favor Manhattan. He loves the whole city equally. He cited some impressive stuffs to prove it: 100 percent of major roads plowed by 10 a.m., somewhere around 90 percent of all secondary roads in the city. De Blasio likes to be the everyman. It's what got him into office two days ago after 12 years of the city being led by a billionaire.

BLASIO: I am a proud Brooklynite, and I was proud to be shoveling my sidewalk in front of my Brooklyn house.

CHACE: And the people of Brooklyn were watching.

MAGDALENE ANGELS: Yeah, he came out this morning. I saw him on TV. And he was cleaning his own driveway. He didn't send his people to clean his driveway.

CHACE: Magdalene Angels lives kind of near the mayor in Crown Heights.

ANGELS: He's setting an example and even a better example to the first mayor who was there, the past mayor.

CHACE: Lots of people out here are mad at the last mayor, Mayor Bloomberg, the billionaire, because the last big storm was twice as big as this and it took a while for Brooklyn to get attention. Kendra Legere remembers.

KENDRA LEGERE: All Manhattan streets were clean and Brooklyn was a complete mess. So the fact that our new mayor, de Blasio, is actually cleaning the streets, he's doing good. He's all right.

CHACE: But let's be real. The new mayor kept lots of the Bloomberg people in charge: the head of sanitation, emergency management. His first major decision really was to close the schools, which is super rare in New York City. But it's cold out and the mayor said he didn't want kids standing around in the cold, waiting for the bus. He even said, keep the sledding to a minimum.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Girls, Monroe(ph), look up.

CHACE: But snow days don't happen very often here. What are you doing?

SAMMY HELMRICH: I'm sledding.

CHACE: Yeah? How many times have sledded in so far?

HELMRICH: Uh, I don't know.

TODD HELMRICH: A lot? A hundred?

HELMRICH: No.

CHACE: Sammy Helmrich and his dad, Todd, sped off down the hill in Central Park. Kids were off schools from Philly to Maine. Lots of flights were canceled. Big highways were closed and re-opened but most people on the East Coast woke up feeling like they dodged a bullet. Several deaths were reported, a few thousand people out of power.

One thing that did spook people in coastal New England, high tides. Last year, a big storm swept a whole house into the ocean just off Boston's north shore. Erin Guay has lived out there all her life and she was watching the tides.

ERIN GUAY: I personally have never seen it this big and this close. I mean, I'm worried about these houses.

CHACE: The danger from the water seems to have mostly passed. Now, it's just the cold. Boston officials are predicting windchills well below zero. Same goes in New York, where it seems like this mayor may have gotten off easy. But we'll see after the roads potentially freeze over tonight. Zoe Chace, NPR News, New York.

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