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Monster Blizzard Pounding Tri-State Area

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Many New Yorkers were feeling boxed in Sunday as a powerful winter storm blanketed the area with heavy snow and pummeled us with high winds, turning roads slick, and putting a chill in retailers’ day-after-Christmas sales.

Snow started falling around New York City late Sunday morning causing New York City-area airports to cancel more than 1,400 flights. By Sunday night, 20 inches of snow had fallen on North Brunswick, N.J, and 18 inches had fallen farther south in Cape May County.

Screaming winds gusting past 40 mph for a multiple-hour stretch will create white-out conditions at the height of the storm from New Jersey and Long Island all the way to Maine, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec.

Blowing and drifting snow have created a real uphill battle for crews working keep the streets clear during the height of the storm and in its wake for a time.

Meteorologists refer to this type of a storm as a “bomb,” due to crashing atmospheric pressure and resultant increasing winds. A dynamic storm of this caliber can bring thunder and lightning with the snow in coastal areas!

WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reports

Officials throughout the metropolitan area were predicting a treacherous commute Monday morning, and many more flights were expected to be canceled.

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The snow fall turned heavy Sunday night and accumulations of up to 18 inches were expected in many parts of the area.

WCBS 880 Meteorologist Craig Allen said some could face snow fall rates of three or four inches per hour.  Allen said some bands of the Tri-State Area east of Interstate 287  could see up to two feet of snow.

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On Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said that workers would be plowing the roads through the night. But he said the snow is accumulating quickly.

“The winds are going to be the problem here,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said, “even after we plow our roads, the winds are going to be so high that they’re going to blow the snow bank right back onto the road.”

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Those winds were expected to linger into Monday and could reach up to 50 m.p.h., creating whiteout conditions with near zero visibility.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning that was to last through Monday evening.

Most New Jersey residents heeded warnings to stay off the roads, which made it less difficult for road crews who worked through the day trying to keep major roadways clear. But local roads grew increasingly slick, slushy and slippery as the day progressed, and numerous accidents and spinouts had been reported, especially on secondary roads.

In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has offered state assistance to towns and cities responding to the season’s first winter storm.

The state emergency operations center opened Sunday and will be used to respond to calls from municipalities.

As much as 18 inches could fall on the New Jersey shore with wind gusts over 40 mph.

The blizzard made travel torturous in the Northeast on Sunday, dropping a thick layer of snow that stranded thousands of airline, train and bus passengers and made motorists think twice about hitting after-Christmas sales.

More than a foot of snow was expected in some areas, including New York and Boston, where an aquarium had to protect – of all things – penguin ice sculptures from the elements. A dumping of up to 20 inches had been forecast for Philadelphia, where the Eagles-Vikings NFL game was postponed because of the storm, but by early evening meteorologists said the city would end up getting no more than a foot. Parts of New Jersey, however, got walloped.

For many people, however, the storm’s timing was perfect: the day after Christmas, a Sunday, no school for at least a week.

“Love snowy days when I don’t have to go anywhere. Staying in – just me and my cozy new socks,” author Neesha Meminger wrote on Twitter from her home in the Bronx.

She told the AP she’s able to savor the moment because her children, ages 6 and 9, are on holiday break: “If this was during the school week, I would be cursing.”

Colleen and Graham James of Montclair, N.J., represented the other side of the coin. They were at Newark Airport with their two young children and their dachshund, trying to reach family in Iowa, but their connecting flight to Chicago was delayed more than two and a half hours.

“We left the day after Christmas to avoid the Christmas craze. I guess that didn’t work out so well,” Colleen James said.

Graham James was resigning himself to postponing their trip a month. “Now we’re worried about just driving home because of the crazy snow,” he said.

Airlines canceled flights throughout the Northeast and at airports in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago and the Carolinas. They expected more cancellations Monday, but were trying to rebook passengers and hoped to resume normal operations Tuesday.

JFK Airport was calm Sunday afternoon, apparently because many would-be travelers elected not to trudge to the terminal in hopes of getting rebooked, but it closed Sunday night, according to the website for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area’s airports. Authority officials did not immediately return calls seeking further information.

Andrew Brent’s flight to Florida was repeatedly pushed back earlier in the day, and the New York mayoral spokesman thought he might have to wait until Monday to meet up with his wife and son for vacation. But he added, “I’ll get down there eventually so I’m not terribly worried.”

Amtrak, meanwhile, canceled train service from New York to Maine on Sunday evening, after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia. New York’s Long Island Rail Road, the nation’s largest commuter rail system, also suspended service. And bus companies canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers.

Kate Lindquist, on her way home from New Hampshire to New York City, was greeted with a handwritten sign at a Boston bus station: “Sorry, we are closed today.”

“To have this happen on a Sunday during a holiday weekend is incredibly frustrating,” she told the AP in an e-mail.

The Northeast received the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued blizzard warnings for parts of New Jersey and New York City for Sunday and Monday.

Forecasters were expecting 12 to 20 inches in most areas along the Jersey shore by the time the snow stopped.

A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts, where 12 to 16 inches of snow was expected by the time flurries taper off Monday morning, said William Babcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency and urged residents to stay off the roads.

Before any snow actually accumulated in the city, the NFL moved the Philadelphia Eagles’ game against the Minnesota Vikings from Sunday night to Tuesday because of “public safety concerns.” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who does football commentaries after Eagles games, was not amused and said fans could have handled it.

“This is football; football’s played in bad weather,” Rendell told KYW-TV. “I, for one, was looking forward to sitting in the stands throughout the snow and seeing an old-time football game.”

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino declared a snow emergency that bans parking on all major streets, and the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot-tall penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.

More than 2,400 sanitation workers were working in 12-hour shifts to clear New York City’s 6,000 miles of streets. Not that Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted people to use them.

“I understand that a lot of families need to get home after a weekend away, but please don’t get on the roads unless you absolutely have to,” Bloomberg said.

In Rhode Island, emergency officials encouraged businesses to let employees report to work late Monday, saying road conditions for the early morning commute Monday would be treacherous.

In southern New Jersey’s Philadelphia suburbs, supermarkets were crowded early in the day and there was a run on snow shovels. Stores were quiet by late afternoon – though there was a line at the Red Box video kiosk outside a Walgreen’s store in Cherry Hill.

The snow was easier to take for people who just stayed home.

“Since we’ve no place to go, I’m gonna uncork a Bordeaux,” Paul White said on Twitter from his home in Point Lookout, N.Y. In a phone interview, the lawyer – who was indeed sipping a glass of red wine – said the snow gave his family a chance to be together and cozy another day.

The weather deterred some people from hitting day-after-Christmas sales, but that appeared to be a relatively light blow for retailers coming off a strong shopping season.

“People will just wait a day to do exchanges and use their gift cards. It’s no big deal,” said Greg Maloney, CEO of the retail practice of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages malls across the country.

There were more snow plows than shoppers at Jackson Premium Outlets in Jackson, N.J., but the weather didn’t keep Shoba Dorai from making the trip from Edison with a girlfriend and her friend’s two toddlers. Several stores closed by 3 p.m.

“It was not that bad when we left this morning around 10:30,” Dorai said. “I guess it was not a great idea, though.”

The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast and strengthened as it moved northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm defied forecasts and largely bypassed Washington, D.C., leaving the National Mall with only a light dusting.

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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