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President Obama Signs Emergency Declaration For Conn.; Region Continues Digging Out

Alternate Side parking Suspended In NYC On Monday
Cars buried in the snow in Stamford (credit: CBS 2)

Cars buried in the snow in Stamford (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Emergency crews and residents struggled Sunday to clear roadways and sidewalks from a storm that rampaged through the Northeast, dumping more than 3 feet of snow in some areas and bringing howling winds that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.

As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, President Barack Obama on Sunday morning signed a federal emergency declaration for the state of Connecticut one day after Gov. Dannel Malloy asked for the designation.

The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the storm relief effort.

According to a White House news release, “Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.  This emergency assistance will be provided for a period of 48 hours.”

Connecticut was hit hardest in the Tri-State Area, with a reading in Shelton showing 40 inches of snow fell.

“This declaration will provide much needed assistance to the state and our towns and cities as we continue to recover from this historic winter storm,” said Malloy in a news release. “While the ban on travel has been lifted, we are continuing to urge residents to stay off the roads, if at all possible. This is particularly true for tractor trailers. Every time someone gets stuck, it is preventing plows from doing their jobs.”

Meanwhile, Malloy asked all nonessential Connecticut state employees to stay home Monday, with the exception of evening and midnight shift workers.

At a news conference Sunday evening, Malloy said the move was deemed necessary because “we want to hold down traffic through tomorrow so we can make that much more progress.”

Further, Malloy said, many municipalities are behind in cleaning up, and “we don’t want to contribute to their difficulties.”

Malloy also advised that private employers in Connecticut should do their part to keep motorists off the roads.

“If your corporation has a policy of allowing people to work at home, this is an occasion to do that,” Malloy said, adding that it would keep traffic down on the roads and “benefit the entire state.”

Connecticut State Police on Sunday urged commuters to carpool to work Monday morning since many parking spots are still buried under snow.

Malloy also issued a warning for motorists, as rain and freezing rain are expected Monday.

“We have piled snow up. Once that gets wert and it freezes, that’s the equivalent of a Jersey bypass” and will inevitably result in spinouts and accidents, Malloy said.

But the state is working hard to clear away all the snow and get the state back in shape. About 65 frontloaders will be released to local communities at the end of business Monday to help clear away the snow, he said.

Life in Connecticut came to a standstill as the snow began falling Friday. A travel ban put the brakes on driving and trains were halted too.

Finally Sunday, Metro-North service to Stamford resumed on a regular schedule, and that ban on driving was lifted. But many cars remained buried.

And for some, digging out was bound to be a bit harder if they parked their car in the streets. Not only did they have to dig out the regular snow, but all of that snow that was compacted against their cars by the plows.

Some streets in Stamford and elsewhere in Connecticut, though plowed, were still covered with a combination of snow and ice.

“It was horrible but it’s good now,” one driver told Gainer. “Everything was slippery, nasty, mushy.”

A snow plow driver in Westport said the snow is so deep in some areas that it’s hard to even see the driveways he’s plowing.

“It’s bad. It’s really bad. It’s maybe 30 inches in some parts, some parts 20 inches,” the driver told WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola.

“We just stayed home and dressed warmly and we were very fortunate we were only out of power for about eight hours,” Westport resident Cynthia West told Kosola.

Municipal workers from New York to Boston labored through the night Saturday in snow-bound communities, where some motorists had to be rescued after spending hours stuck in wet, heavy snow. Meanwhile, utilities in some hard-hit New England states predicted that Friday’s storm could leave some customers in the dark at least until Monday.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone, which got more than two and a half feet of snow.

A total of about 650,000 Tri-State Area customers lost their power as a result of the blizzard. Nearly 7,000 were still without power Sunday night.

Some school districts announced they’d be closed on Monday, complicating parents’ back to work schedules but giving kids another day for frolicking.

At least eleven deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shoveled Saturday morning. That death and the illnesses of several others exposed to carbon monoxide set off a flurry of safety warnings from public officials.

Five people died because of the storm in Connecticut, state officials announced.

In New York, 23-year-old Christopher Mahood of Germantown was killed Friday night after the tractor he was driving went down an embankment, authorities announced on Sunday.

Roads across the Northeast were impassable and cars were entombed by snow drifts on Saturday. Some people found the snow packed so high against their homes they couldn’t get their doors open.

For much of the Tri-State Area, temperatures will be slightly above freezing on Sunday with sunny conditions, CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock forecast.

Monday will bring warmer, wet weather which is expected to cause lots of melting, CBS 2’s Murdock reported.

Wintry weather could hit the region again Wednesday night. A low pressure system could bring up to two inches, which could make for a slick Thursday morning commute, Murdock said.

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 80 mph in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford., Conn., got 38 inches of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 31.9, shattering a 1979 record. Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 2 feet.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of ’78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 24.9 inches in Boston, or fifth on the city’s all-time list. Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn., got 22 inches, for the No. 2 spot in the record books there.

Concord, N.H., got 24 inches of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.

In New York, where Central Park recorded 11 inches, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city “dodged a bullet” and its streets were “in great shape.” The three major airports – LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J. – were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

City officials announced Sunday afternoon that enforcement of alternate side of the street parking will be suspended Monday to so plows can get through.

And as previously scheduled, alternate side parking will be suspended on Tuesday and Wednesday for Lincoln’s birthday and the Ash Wednesday holiday, respectively.

Payment at parking meters will remain in effect throughout the city on these days, the city announced.

Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where at its peak more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark. In Rhode Island, a high of around 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state.

Connecticut crews had slowly whittled down the outage total from a high of about 38,000 to about 25,000 Sunday, and power was restored to nearly all of the more than 15,000 in Maine and New Hampshire who were left without lights after the storm hit.

Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4 p.m. to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported. The Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.

On Long Island, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways. Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.

Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. on Friday and headed for home in Middle Island, N.Y., but got stuck six or seven times on the Long Island Expressway and other roads.

“There was a bunch of us Long Islanders. We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing,” he said. He finally gave up and settled in for the night in his car just two miles from his destination. At 8 a.m., when it was light out, he walked home.

“I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit,” he said. “It was very icy under my car. That’s why my car is still there.”

Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.

“I was very lucky and I never even lost power,” said Susan Kelly of Bayville. “We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm.” As for the shoveling, “I got two hours of exercise.”

At New York’s Fashion Week, women tottered on 4-inch heels through the snow to get to the tents to see designers’ newest collections.

Boston’s Logan Airport resumed operations late Saturday night.

In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family’s home. Everyone was fine.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 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.)