NJ continues to dig out after monster snow storm

December 20, 2009 3:56:05 PM PST
It was a monster winter storm with a mild aftermath in New Jersey. Residents spent most of Sunday digging out buried cars while road crews worked to remove ice and several inches of snow from highways, bridges and ramps across the state. And shoppers witnessed a sight rarely seen in New Jersey: choice parking spots at the mall on the weekend before Christmas.

But no major storm-related problems were reported, as most residents chose to ride out the storm indoors, and life in the Garden State quickly returned to normal Sunday. Some homes were still without power because of sporadic outages that hit Saturday night, but all customers were expected to have their power restored by nightfall.

And while numerous spinouts and minor accidents were reported Saturday, most of the problems Sunday involved vehicles getting stuck in snow drifts and side streets, especially in the hardest-hit southern areas.

The storm made a powerful pit-stop in New Jersey on its way up the East Coast, dropping as much as two feet of snow Saturday in southern and central areas and up to a foot in northern locations.

Some southern counties saw their highest single-storm snowfall totals in nearly four years, but forecasters with the National Weather Service were not sure Sunday if the storm broke any records for the state.

Meanwhile, gusty winds that had created blizzard-like conditions in some areas Saturday night had also eased by Sunday. But the frigid temperatures remained in place, and highs were only expected to reach into the low 30s for Sunday and Monday.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region's major airports, said all runways were operating Sunday. However, some delays persisted due to the rescheduling of hundreds of flights that were canceled on Saturday.

"I think we're extremely lucky on the timing of the storm," said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Coleman said the fact the storm hit during the lightest travel time of the week - late Saturday night into Sunday morning - allowed crews unimpeded access to airport runways to keep them clear.

"Things should typically be smoothed out in a day or so, and I think by Christmas things should be back to normal, assuming we don't get more bad weather," Coleman said.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine praised the work of cleanup crews, utility workers and emergency responders, adding he was thankful there were no storm-related fatalities in New Jersey.

The snow hit hardest in southern parts of the state, with 24 inches reported in parts of Cumberland County, while snow totals in northern counties like Bergen, Essex and Passaic ranged from 6 to 12 inches.

The flurries had wrapped up by Sunday morning, giving way to an early morning blast of cold that kept most people indoors. Many churches canceled Sunday services, while some businesses remained shut down.

Street corner preacher Rev. Tony Daniels was one of the few willing to brave the cold in Newark early Sunday morning. Despite the near foot of snow that fell Saturday night in New Jersey's largest city, Daniels said he wasn't deterred by the lack of audience or the buses splashing waves of dirty slush over his portable amplifier and microphone wire.

"Rain, snow, sleet or hail, we're better than the post office," Daniels said. "It's cold, but the love in our hearts for these people keeps us warm."

The storm continued making its way north Sunday, with blizzard warnings in effect for parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with gusts up to 60 mph. As much as 16 inches of snow was expected to cover parts of southern New England.