Services slowly returning to normal after city spared major snowfall

A man digs his car out of a snow bank on Juniper Street next to City Hall., in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

A nor'easter brought snow, sleet and freezing rain to the Philadelphia region late Monday and Tuesday morning. While snowfall totals appear to be less than expected, and the bulk of the storm had passed by early afternoon, periods of snow, rain and wintry mix could continue into the early evening.

Driving remains hazardous and power outages have been reported around the area. Here's what you need to know about how the storm is affecting the region.

SCHOOLS

Philadelphia public schools will reopen for regularly-scheduled classes Wednesday morning.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it will open schools in the city on a two-hour delay.

WEATHER

The mix of snow, rain, freezing rain and sleet is tapering off, according to the National Weather Service. Another band of precipitation is blowing through the region, but little to no additional accumulation is expected.

Most places locally reported a few inches of snow, with six to nine inches in parts of Bucks, Chester and Montgomery Counties. The weather service had predicted Philadelphia would get eight to 12 inches, but the precipitation started as snow and then fell as sleet and rain for a prolonged period, which significantly lowered snowfall totals.

The wintry mix, however, changed back to snow for a period mid-morning in many places, including Center City Philadelphia.

Winter storm and blizzard warnings that had been issued for the region were canceled mid-afternoon Tuesday.

A flood warning remains in place for much of South Jersey. At the Shore, moderate coastal flooding has been reported. That's expected to lead to some beach erosion, though the full impact won't be known until later in the week.

High temperatures are forecast to reach the low-to-mid 30s Tuesday through Thursday, with overnight lows in the teens and 20s, so any remaining snow is likely to stick around and moisture from rain will freeze, leading to slick roads and sidewalks. Most local municipalities, including Philadelphia, are under Code Blue warnings for the duration of the cold snap.

UTILITIES

Dozens of outages have been reported, leaving more than 30,000 Peco, PSE&G and Atlantic City Electric customers without power. The bulk of those are in South Jersey, where icing on power lines and equipment, wind gusts and fallen trees caused outages. Power was expected to be restored to many sometime Tuesday afternoon, though damage assessments remained underway.

"We've made some good progress so far, but we've got a lot of work to do," said ACE spokesman Frank Tedesco.

Forecasters had warned that the combination of wet, heavy snow and strong winds would likely knock down trees and power lines, leading to outages. Utility companies said they had extra personnel on hand to respond to outages. 

TRANSPORTATION

Roads

Conditions vary depending on what sort of precipitation an area received. Ice is a main hazard on local roadways. Plowing operations have been underway on highways and city streets since the overnight hours. Numerous accidents were reported throughout the region, many of them single-vehicle spinouts. Fallen trees are also blocking streets.

"I would still tell people: If they don’t have to be out, don’t," said Scott Forster, the emergency services director in Bucks County.

Tertiary roads, especially in the Pennsylvania suburbs, are slick and barely passable due to icy snow, while primary and secondary roads throughout the region are in better shape. Icy conditions were relatively widespread, however.

PennDot has lifted speed and vehicle restrictions on all roadways in the five-county region.

In New Jersey, the state of emergency was lifted at 6 p.m. At a press briefing in Pluckemin, N.J., Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Christie said, "I'd ask all motorists to stay off the road if you can."

Speed restrictions are still in place on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway, and Interstates 295, 95, 78 and 80.

Winds are supposed to continue through the evening, causing visibility issues, Christie said. But "tomorrow, we should be able to deal with the normal rush hour traffic." Christie said he anticipates state offices will open on time Wednesday.

In South Jersey, flooding is causing road closures. Some motorists who drove into flooded areas got stuck in their cars.

With the snow emergency lifted, parking is now restored on Philadelphia streets. But the Philadelphia Police Department has resurrected its #NoSavesies social media campaign, reminding residents not to use objects to save shoveled-out parking spots.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority resumed enforcing meter and time limit violations at 4 p.m.

In Delaware, the governor issued a Level 1 Driving Warning for New Castle County Tuesday, and authorized the Delaware National Guard to assist state and local officials. Roads are not closed, but nonessential employees are urged not to drive unless they have to.

Sidewalks are generally slushy and slick. Philadelphia residents must clear a 3-foot path by six hours after the storm's end. Failing to shovel can lead to a $50 code violation notice. 

Airport

Airlines are planning to resume normal service on Wednesday at Philadelphia International Airport, but officials advised that travelers check with their carriers before leaving for the airport.

More than 400 flights in Philadelphia – and thousands more at other airports in the Northeast – were canceled Tuesday. Most airlines had completely halted operations for the day at PHL. The airport says only Delta is planning to operate some flights through this afternoon. Check Delta for details.

Many carriers, including American, the dominant airline in Philadelphia, were allowing passengers to change flights without paying a change fee.

Mass Transit

SEPTA: 

Nite Owl bus service will resume after midnight along the the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines, which had been running round the clock for the storm.

Regional Rail is operating on a severe storm plan, meaning most trains are on Saturday schedules, the Wilmington/Newark Line is on an enhanced Saturday schedule, and there is no Cynwyd Line service. There are delays throughout the Regional Rail system, earlier due to weather and this afternoon due to staffing shortages.

Many SEPTA bus routes have been suspended. (Routes still running are 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18, 21, 23, 26, 27, 29, 32, 33, 37, 38, 40, 42, 43, 44 (no Gladwyne), 45, 46, 47, 48, 52, 53, 54, 56, 59, 60, 61, 66, 70, 73, 75, 79, 96, 98, 99, 104, 108, 109, 111, 113, 114, 117 (no Elwyn), 119, 120, 124 and 125). CCT service is running on a limited schedule.

Trolley Routes 101 and 102 have resumed service, and city trolley lines are following a normal schedule despite delays.

Inbound service on the Norristown High Speed Line is suspended but outbound trains have resumed. The agency has said it hopes to have full service Wednesday morning, though some bus routes may not be running again by then. More information is at septa.org.

PATCO is running on a snow schedule. All Freedom Centers are closed. For inquiries, call 856-772-6900 or 215-922-4600.

NJ Transit shut down all bus and Access Link service at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, and expects to resume Wednesday. The Atlantic City Rail Line will operate on a regular weekday schedule, but all other rail lines will operate on a weekend schedule Tuesday. That means no service west of Raritan on the Raritan Valley Line, west of Dover on the M&E Line, or west of Bay Street on the Montclair-Boonton Line.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will operate on a weekend schedule with additional trains every 20 minutes between Tonnelle Avenue and Hoboken Terminal. Newark Light Rail will operate on a Saturday schedule. RiverLINE service will operate on a Sunday schedule.

Amtrak is running a modified schedule throughout the Northeast Corridor. There will be no Acela Express service between Boston and New York, and limited service between New York and Washington. In addition, Northeast Regional and Keystone Service trains will operate on modified schedules. Many trains are delayed.

GOVERNMENT

Philadelphia has lifted its snow emergency, which had banned vehicles from parking on snow emergency routes.

Trash and recycling collection was canceled for Tuesday in Philadelphia. Residents with Tuesday pickup should hold their materials until next week. Trash and recycling will be picked up Wednesday.

All courts in Philadelphia are closed. City government offices opened at 10 a.m. Many Free Library branches are closed.

State offices in New Jersey were closed for nonessential employees. 

County government offices and courts are closed in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania and Camden and Burlington Counties in New Jersey.

In Washington, the House canceled votes that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

CLOSINGS

Some attractions and businesses are closed due the storm; check with a site before going. (The Philadelphia Flower Show, however, remains open.)

Share your snow photos with us, showing the street you live or work on. Include the name of the street and what time you took the picture. You can email it to audience@philly.com, or tweet it to us @phillydotcom using #WinterStormStella. You can also place it in the comments on our Facebook page.