Despite two days of back-straining, slip-sliding labor, life still will not return to normal today for snow-walloped residents of the Philadelphia area.
City public and archdiocesan schools are closed, while numerous suburban districts were planning either to close or to open two hours late. Some trash-pickup schedules are altered. Cars remain blocked in, and roads could be slick after an evening freeze.
Notwithstanding a vast effort across Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, helped by a sunny day and temperatures above freezing, it will take more than a weekend to recover from the second-largest snowfall on record. The two-day total, most of it coming in a daylong fury on Saturday, reached 23.2 inches in the city - eclipsing a 21.3-inch dump in February 1983 but short of the 30.7 inches that fell in January 1996.
If there was a saving grace to the snow, it was that it had stopped by 8 a.m. yesterday, allowing for its removal on a day when schools and most businesses were closed.
Snowplow crews needed every minute - nowhere more perhaps, than in the city, where the aging grid of narrow streets, alleys, and byways makes snow removal a challenge.
"We don't get that much snow overall," Mayor Nutter said, as he inspected conditions in the city's Fairmount section during the afternoon. "But sometimes, when we get it, we really get it."
The mayor hit the streets yesterday for the second day in a row, clad in a gray parka and a blue Office of Emergency Management cap as he surveyed the efforts of city workers and residents. He paused periodically to field progress reports on his mobile phone, at one point asking Gov. Rendell for extra help from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews.
On the 2000 block of Parrish Street, Nutter tested the snow by digging in with his boots, just purchased for the occasion on Friday after a 10-year-old pair had worn out. The mayor noted that the snow was still 3 inches deep even after one pass with a plow.
He and other city officials urged sidewalk-shovelers not to compound the problem by heaving snow back into the street.
Streets Commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson saw a man doing just that on nearby Ogden Street, and shot him a disapproving look.
Upon passing another shoveler, a woman who was carefully piling her snow on the curb on 20th Street, Tolson beamed.
"Thank you for putting your snow in the right place," the streets commissioner told her.
The stuff that fell was fairly light and fluffy, making it easier to shovel and, according to city managing director Camille Barnett, posing less of a threat to power lines.
At Philadelphia International Airport, things were largely back to normal after most flights were canceled or delayed on Saturday.
Moving by road and rail was easier as well. By midday, major roads were clear on both sides of the Delaware River, but many side streets remained coated with a thick white blanket. AAA Mid-Atlantic reported a 64 percent increase in distress calls, mostly from motorists seeking to have a car extricated.
The auto club anticipates continued high volume and delays today, though it is seeking to add more staff to handle the calls, spokeswoman Catherine L. Rossi said.
On the Main Line, most driveways were snow-free by noon. Residents were out early shoveling and those with snowblowers were aiding those without. Main roads were sloppy but usable, and most side streets had been plowed.
"This could have been worse," said T.J. Latoff, of Rosemont, who was snowblowing his driveway. "It's a dry snow."
Jim McCloskey, 51, a general contractor from Paoli, was out with his two sons plowing residential driveways and commercial clients. With the heavy snowfall, he needed to plow the same driveways both Saturday and yesterday.
"You have to do it every five or six inches," he said.
Within the Barclay Farm and Kingston sections of Cherry Hill, on either side of the usually busy Route 70, many streets remained unplowed or inadequately plowed into the late morning yesterday.
Within the developments, two of Cherry Hill's oldest and largest, residents had seen nary a township plow. And not a speck of sand was to be seen, not even on Route 70, which was well-plowed by morning but in many sections afforded little traction.
The clearing of the highway at many points threw up mounds of plowed snow at several entryways and exits from the developments. To compound the problem, at about 10 a.m. yesterday, a township plow broke down - right at a rare usable exit from Barclay Farm, forcing a couple of cars behind the plow to gingerly turn around.
Mounds of plowed snow posed a similar problem in Philadelphia. The bus stop in front of the Municipal Services Building was blocked by a waist-high bank of plowed snow, meaning that those waiting for a ride had to stand out in the street, on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Barnett, the managing director, was displeased. She immediately called in to report the snow bank.
"It won't be there long," Barnett vowed.
In the city, trash pickup today will be treated as if it were a holiday - meaning those who usually have a Monday pickup should put out their trash tomorrow. Tuesday pickups are similarly shifted to Wednesday, and Wednesday to Thursday.
Because of the added scheduling wrinkle posed by Christmas, Thursday and Friday pickups will both take place on Saturday.
That's because the people and equipment normally deployed for trash pickup were being used for snow, Nutter said after an 11:30 a.m. briefing at the city's emergency command center, in the basement of the Fire Administration Building at Third and Spring Garden Streets.
Archdiocese and public schools are closed in the city today. Nutter's office pushed the school district to make that move yesterday, rather than waiting for the usual early morning conference call on the day of a possible closure.
That meant another day of sledding and snowballs for some.
Some kids didn't even get to have fun yesterday.
McCloskey, the Paoli contractor, was accompanied by his two sons as he plowed Main Line driveways.
Reilly McCloskey, 17, confessed that plowing wasn't his first choice but said he owed his father money for some concert tickets. Said the teenager:
"I really wanted to sit home and play video games."