As Snow Ends, Residents Dig Out In Freezing Temperatures

fromWSHU

Commuters are struggling again this morning, following the winter storm that dropped a foot or more of snow on cities in the Northeast. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio warned people to stay off the roads. Airline passengers are forced to deal with multiple canceled flights.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's report on a news story that, for many Americans, is right outside the car window.

MONTAGNE: Heavy snow slammed the East Coast yesterday.

INSKEEP: Providence, Rhode Island was hit with 11 inches of snow.

MONTAGNE: Philadelphia got 13 inches.

INSKEEP: And Long Island was covered in 14 inches by yesterday afternoon.

Charles Lane, of member station WSHU, talked with drivers who used the Long Island Expressway.

CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: Rush hour so was not the word for it. No one was rushing anywhere, and it took a lot longer than an hour to get there. A typical 90-minute commute from Queens to suburban Long Island took four to five hours.

KARA FITZGERALD: Yeah. And I went to the bathroom before I left, but I have to go so badly again. Bye.

LANE: Kara Fitzgerald was one of many making an emergency stop at a gas station off the Long Island Expressway, which was really just a virtual parking lot.

FITZGERALD: It's moving five miles an hour, no more.

LANE: That's actually a better estimate than what I've heard from other people.

FITZGERALD: Yeah, it's really bad. It's really bad, and people are sliding all over. It's horrible.

LANE: States of emergency were declared in New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Schools from West Virginia all the way to Boston are closed on Wednesday.

While the storm stretched from Chicago to Washington, drivers along the I-95 corridor probably had the most frustrating go at it. The snow wasn't expected to start until noon, but then the snow came early and fast, about one to two inches an hour.

On Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says they started pre-treating the roads early with salt brine late Monday, but still, he was concerned.

STEVE BELLONE: We're taking this very seriously. We also have extreme low temperatures throughout the day. So it's going to make it very difficult to, you know, number one, remove the snow, but it's going to create really icy conditions throughout the day.

LANE: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers to just stay inside.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: If you have to go out and you have a mass transit option, please choose that over your cars. The fewer vehicles on the road, the better job that sanitation can do.

LANE: Amtrak did dial back service, but other mass transit riders made out the best with local trains in and out of New York about on time.

RICHIE GRANT: I did pretty good then. I got lucky.

LANE: Richie Grant took the Long Island Rail Road from Brooklyn.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRUSHING)

LANE: And now he's brushing eight inches of snow from his car. He says it came at the worst possible time at day.

GRANT: Because this is the one that, you know, you got to go into work, or you look like the wimp, and then they won't let you out early, and then you got to deal with all this.

LANE: Some 3,000 flights were canceled on the East Coast yesterday, and another thousand are canceled today. Morning commutes will also likely be difficult. Even if workers get the snow out of the way, the ice melt won't work if temperatures don't get above 15 degrees. The National Weather Service says some parts of the Northeast will get that warm - barely, for a couple hours in the afternoon.

For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane, in New York.

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