A gusting winter storm buried parts of the Northeast under 3 feet of snow and left millions of people with little to do Saturday but wait — for lights to come on, flights to resume and packed-in cars to be freed.
Transportation systems slowly flickered back. New York airports reopened on limited schedules, and Boston’s Logan hoped to open later, even if no flights could take off. Massachusetts lifted a driving ban for the western third of the state.
But for the most part, the country’s most populous region came to a standstill for a day. Elected officials pleaded with people to stay inside, even after the snow stopped, to let emergency crews and snowplows do their work.
“This is going to go on for a number of days,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said. “This will not all be done today.”
The storm was blamed for at least nine deaths, including a child poisoned by carbon monoxide and an 81-year-old Connecticut woman who was clearing snow with a blower who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.
About 575,000 people were without power, including 367,000 in Massachusetts and 162,000 in Rhode Island, but those numbers were declining as utility crews worked.
And along the coast, including among people battered by Superstorm Sandy less than four months ago, flooding was a concern. The snowstorm announced itself with hurricane-force winds and churned up offshore waters.
Boston reported a hair under 25 inches, placing the storm in that city’s five-worst on record. Concord, N.H., reported 2 feet. Central Park in New York — by afternoon a sledder’s paradise — reported 11.4 inches.
The National Weather Service recorded peak wind gusts of 83 mph in Cuttyhunk, Mass., the strength of a Category 1 hurricane. There were gusts of 72 mph in Westport, Conn., and 76 mph in East Boston.
On the Long Island Expressway, which looked more like a moonscape than a busy thoroughfare, 60 to 100 cars were stuck in the snow, and police officers worked through the night to free people from cars and get them to safety.
Richard Ebbrecht, a chiropractor, told The Associated Press that he left his office in Brooklyn at 3 p.m. Friday and got stuck six or seven times on the expressway and other roads.
“We were all helping each other, shoveling, pushing,” he said.
He gave up and settled in for the night just two miles from home. At 8 a.m., he walked the rest of the way.
“I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit,” he told the AP. “It was very icy under my car. That’s why my car is still there.”
Among the nine deaths blamed on the storm were an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide while keeping warm in the car.
The boy had been helping his father shovel out the car and got cold. The father started the engine, and the boy got inside, a Boston fire spokesman told the AP. But the car’s exhaust pipe was covered by a snowbank.
In Auburn, N.H., a man was killed after losing control of his car and hitting a tree. He was found dead in his car by local authorities.
In Prospect, Conn., an 81-year-old woman was using a snowblower when a driver struck and killed her and fled the scene, Malloy said. In Danbury, a man slipped on a porch and was found dead Saturday morning, the mayor told NBC Connecticut.
A 53-year-old man in Bridgeport, Conn., was found dead under snow at his house, possibly from hypothermia or a cardiac arrest, authorities said. A 55-year-old New Milford man died after he suffered a heart attack while plowing. A Shelton man, 49, died while digging out his truck.
A man in Livingston County, N.Y., was plowing his driveway with a tractor Friday night when the tractor went off the edge of the road and fell on top of him.
And in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., an 18-year-old woman lost control of her car in the snow and struck Muril M. Hancock, 74, who was walking near the shoulder, police said Friday. Hancock died at the hospital.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday morning that 2,200 pieces of equipment were on the streets, salting and plowing. He said that all the primary streets in the city had been plowed.
“I think it’s fair to say that we were very lucky,” he said. “Looks like we dodged a bullet.”
He said the city had offered help to other places hit harder by the storm.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick had ordered all cars off the roads but announced Saturday afternoon that he was lifting the ban for Interstate 91 and the slice of the state to the west.
Connecticut had a similar ban in place, but Malloy could not say when it might be lifted. He said Saturday afternoon that he expected it to remain in place at least for the rest of the day.
When conditions quickly deteriorated on Long Island, more than 100 drivers were stranded. TODAY’s Lester Holt reports.
The winter storm was fueled by two weather systems — a so-called clipper pattern that swept across the Midwest and a band of rain that churned up from the South. They clashed explosively over the Northeast on Friday.
The storm arrived in earnest Friday night. The governors of New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all declared states of emergency.
More than 800 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York to provide roadway support, emergency transportation and back-up for first responders, the Department of Defense said.