More than 13 inches of record-setting snow fell in Philadelphia - and more along the Jersey Coast - after a massive storm moved up the shoreline, wreaking havoc on commuters and prompting schools to call it quits for today.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says a snow emergency, declared at 4 p.m. Tuesday, is expected to be lifted at 6 p.m. today.
Schools throughout the region were largely closed today, and Nutter said officials will decide later whether Philadelphia students will head back to class Thursday. The city government will reopen Thursday.
Officially, 13.5 inches fell Tuesday. But the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management recorded 14 inches. Airport officials were warning that the storm may impact impact flight operations today and that it's wise to check flight status before leaving home (1-800-745-4283 or phl.org)
The snow total (see chart) set a record for Jan. 21, crushing the previous mark of 3.4 inches, set in 1917. And, it set a record as the third snowfall of six inches or more before Feb. 1 - something that had never happened before, according to the National Weather Service. The total was the 10th-highest one-day snowfall ever in Philadelphia.
Most parts of the city got hit with the full 13 to 14 inches of snow, Nutter said. Typically, there's a much wider range of snowfall accumulations.
The mayor said the city hopes streets will be in good condition for Thursday's morning rush hour, but the full clean up process will likely take until Saturday. He urged motorists to stay off the roads today if possible, to make the plowing process easier.
The rest of the region also got slammed with snow. Almost 16 inches (15.8) were recorded in Manalapan, Monmouth County - the highest total in the Philadelphia-to-shore area.
Delaware County was also hit hard. Brookhaven recorded 14.8 inches, and 14.2 inches were reported in Media. Other locations in Delaware and Montgomery counties also saw at least a foot, as did parts of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey.
Some totals could change as the spotters for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly update their information throughout the morning.
The snow may last a while. Temperatures plunged unofficially to about 6 degrees overnight. The high today is not expected to reach past 14.
Thursday will bring a slight chance of snow showers, but as of now no significant snowfall is expected.
Temperatures are expected to remain bitter cold through Saturday, which has a forecast high of 36.
Traffic and Commuter Impact
At Philadelphia International Airport, more than 100 weather-related cancellations were reported. Several area malls closed early Tuesday but said they would open at their normal start times today.
Road crews worked feverishly overnight and many of the major roads were in good shape as of 5 a.m. Transit was running fairly well.
SEPTA trains in the city seemed to be mostly on time. Regional Rail lines were operating as normal as possible during the rush, but big delays were reported on a number of lines throughout the morning and early afternoon, especially north of Temple University where a switch failed.
Service on bus route 35 remains suspended, and about about 30 routes are being detoured due to road conditions. Two SEPTA trolley lines, routes 101 and 102, were suspended due to downed wires, and shuttle buses are operating in place of trolleys from 69th Street to Media and Sharon Hill.
PATCO is running on a snow schedule, with trains operating every 10 minutes.
New Jersey Transit said all rail lines except the Atlantic City Line were operating with on an enhanced weekend schedule with 10- to 15-minute delays. River Line service was experiencing 30 minute delays due to weather issues and a disabled train in Camden, the transit agency said.
Amtrak is operating on a modified schedule on the Northeast Corridor, Keystone Service and Empire Line routes.
Many side streets remained unplowed as of noon, and walking was treacherous on most sidewalks as the the frigid temperatures kept any icy accumulation intact.
The cold temperatures pose a challenge to clean-up crews, Nutter said, as the salting and brining processes are less effective once the mercury dips below 20 degrees.
A variety of vehicle crashes were reported throughout the overnight hours and day, including cars colliding with trains in Royersford Crossing yesterday and Camden City this morning.
AAA Mid-Atlantic reported it had responded to more than 5,200 requests for service on Tuesday, and another 4,100 requests through noon today, throughout its territory of Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority said its snow emergency rate of $5 per day at select garages would end at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
Many schools, such as those in the Philadelphia School District and Archdiocese of Philadelphia, announced closures for the day, as did a number of local universities such as Temple, Drexel and Penn.
Area government offices are also shut down for the day or are opening late: Philadelphia city offices are closed, while government offices in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties will open two hours late.
A number of major Philadelphia attractions - the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute and Eastern State Penitentiary among them - said they would be closed today.
Check back for details as they develop.