Blizzard 2015: New England buried, NYC lifts travel ban - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Blizzard 2015: New England buried, NYC lifts travel ban

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Fishing boats ride out the storm at dock in Scituate, MA, Tuesday. AP photo Fishing boats ride out the storm at dock in Scituate, MA, Tuesday. AP photo
  • NYC lifts travel ban, subways back Tuesday morning
  • 30-feet seas reported along Massachusetts coast
  • Boston mayor: 'Main bulk hitting us right now'
  • Eight states under emergency declarations


(NBC News) - Coastal New England was battered Tuesday by a blizzard of blinding snow, ferocious waves and winds that topped hurricane speed, and city streets in Boston were empty of all but snowplows.

New York City and New Jersey lifted travel bans, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said subways and buses in the nation's largest city would roll again later in the morning. But major airports in the Northeast were still deserted after more than 7,700 flights were canceled.

Parts of Massachusetts had a foot and a half of snow on the ground, with as much as a foot more still to come.

"We've had a pretty good night, but the main bulk of the storm is hitting us right now," Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston said on NBC's TODAY. "We're asking people just to stay in their homes today and just ride this one out."

He said it could still be Tuesday night or Wednesday before mass transit starts rolling again in Boston. In the meantime, police were ferrying doctors and nurses to their hospital shifts.

Gov. Charlie Baker told a morning news conference: "So far, I guess what I would say is so good," but he stressed that the island of Nantucket was hit especially hard.

A 78 mph gust of wind was recorded there, the strength of a minor hurricane. And emergency officials reported 30-foot waves and "severe flooding" as up to 7 feet of water sloshed inland.

"There is about 4 feet of water in the street in front of the house," Eric Murphy, a pest control worker, told NBC News from his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts. "We do get flooding here, but this is the worst I've seen in the 15 years I've lived here. My house is on stilts, but another few inches and we might be in trouble."

Baker said there were reports of people getting out of their cars on some Massachusetts roads to clear their windshields, putting them in danger of being struck by snowplows. "Not a good idea," he said.

Eight states were under emergency declarations: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The snow totals across New England were impressive: 18 inches in Sandwich, Massachusetts, 13.8 inches in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and 11 inches in Middletown, Rhode Island. Islip, New York, on Long Island, was buried under almost 17 inches of snow by 5 a.m.

New York City was spared the worst of the storm and had a little more than 6 inches on the ground at Central Park, with perhaps an inch or two still to fall, forecasters said.

That was a far cry from the worst predictions — the National Weather Service had warned of as much as 3 feet of snow — but the nation's largest city was at a standstill nonetheless. Just before daybreak, a blizzard warning was downgraded to a winter storm warning.

The National Weather Service's New York office reported "much less snow than previously predicted for the western half of our region."

"The science of forecasting storms, while continually improving, still can be subject to error, especially if we're on the edge of the heavy precipitation shield," the office said on its Facebook page. "Efforts, including research, are already underway to more easily communicate that forecast uncertainty."

Kevin Roth, a lead forecasters for The Weather Channel, said that competing computer forecast models put the center of the storm system slightly to the east and slightly to the west. The east turned out to be right, and that made the difference, he said.

At John F. Kennedy Airport, passengers on at least one outbound Virgin Atlantic flight were stranded when their flight to London was canceled after six hours on the tarmac.

"There's nothing to drink, nothing to eat. It's a disaster," said Alexis Dehasse, a music producer who was aboard Virgin Atlantic Flight 4 to London, which was supposed to take off at 6:30 p.m. ET but dumped passengers back at the gate after midnight after dealing with de-icing and a sick passenger.

Amtrak suspended Tuesday service on many of its busiest lines, including the Northeast Regional and Acela Express between New York and Boston, and Boston and New York suspended subways.

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