UPDATE 5-Snowstorm sweeps northeast U.S., New York spared its brunt
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By Scott Malone, Jill Serjeant and Laila Kearney
BOSTON/NEW YORK, Jan 27 (Reuters) – A blizzard swept across the northeastern United States on Tuesday, dropping more than a foot (30 cm) of snow across Massachusetts and Connecticut even as its impact on New York City fell short of dire predictions.
The governors of New York and New Jersey lifted travel bans they had imposed a day earlier and New York City’s subway system was set to restart, though officials urged people who did not have to drive to stay off snow-covered roadways.
A blizzard warning remained in effect for much of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where snow was expected to go on falling through the day at a rate as high as 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) an hour, even as the National Weather Service lifted its blizzard warning for the New York City area.
Some in New York criticized the aggressive warnings of officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for the first time in history ordered the city’s subway to close for a snowstorm. Officials with vivid memories of disasters including 2012’s Superstorm Sandy defended their actions.
Some cab drivers in New York doubled fares and sought to pack additional passengers into their vehicles as office workers headed to their jobs.
On New York’s Long Island, Suffolk County Police said a teenager had died late on Monday when he crashed into a lamppost in the street where he was snow-tubing.
The New York Stock Exchange, owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc, will run as usual, said spokesman Eric Ryan. Nasdaq OMX Group, and BATS Global Markets also expected to stay open for normal operating hours on Tuesday.
Travel was still snarled, with more than 4,500 flights canceled at U.S. airports, according to FlightAware.com.
‘PLAYING IT SAFE’
New Yorkers were divided on whether officials had over-reacted in ordering dramatic shutdowns ahead of the storm.
“The mayor might have blown it this time but he was probably just playing it safe,” said Manny Martinez, 55, as he salted his driveway in New York’s Brooklyn borough. Martinez said he was glad to find his shoveling work easier than he had expected, “This is what I was praying for, the white fluffy stuff.”
Others were frustrated that de Blasio had preemptively shut the subway and ordered cabs off the roads.
“It’s never as bad as they say it is going to be,” said Greg Noble, 29, as he walked briskly to his maintenance job some 30 city blocks from his Manhattan home. “This made it a little difficult to go to my job. I usually take a taxi, but no taxis today.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo defended the decisions, which had included a driving ban in New York City and its surrounding counties overnight.
“I would rather, if there is a lean one way or another, lean towards safety because I have seen the consequences the other way and it gets very frightening very quickly … we have had people die in storms,” Cuomo told reporters. “I would rather be in a situation where we say ‘We got lucky.'”
His New Jersey counterpart, Governor Chris Christie, was less sanguine about the dire forecasts that preceded the storm.
“I wasn’t thrilled on my 5:30 a.m. phone call, but it’s the way it goes,” Christie told Philadelphia’s WTXF television.
CONNECTICUT, MASSACHUSETTS HARDEST HIT
Some of the heaviest snowfall was recorded in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, with about 20 inches (50 centimeters) reported in around Worcester, well over the 6 inches (15 cm) reported in New York City’s Central Park.
New York’s Suffolk County, east of New York City, also saw two feet (60 cm) of snow in spots.
Fewer Massachusetts residents and businesses lost power than was expected, said Governor Charlie Baker, saying that temperatures well below freezing had resulted in light snow. High winds could yet result in additional outages, he said.
“We’ll continue to see high winds throughout the course of the day,” Baker told reporters on Tuesday. “People should spend the morning digging out, cleaning up.”
Significant flooding was reported in coastal communities south of Boston, including Scituate, the state police said.
Sustained winds in the area might hit 40 miles per hour (64 kph), though gusts as high as 78 mph (126 kph) were recorded on the island of Nantucket, off Massachusetts, where extensive power outages were reported.
Massachusetts’ Pilgrim nuclear power plant powered down on Tuesday after lines allowing it to transmit electricity went down, officials said.
The United Nations headquarters gave itself a day off on Tuesday. East Coast schools, including New York City – the nation’s largest public school system, serving 1 million students – shut down. Universities, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, canceled classes.
Coastal flood warnings were issued from Delaware to Maine, and National Weather Service officials in Boston reported early on Tuesday that waves just a few miles outside of Boston Harbor approached 20 feet (6 meters).
Amtrak suspended rail services between New York and Boston, and into New York State, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. (Additional reporting by Jeff Benkoe, Sebastien Malo and Tiffany Wu in New York, Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Louise Ireland and Howard Goller)