WHEN ST. NICK flew into town amid clear skies Friday for another season of gift-giving, he didn't need Rudolph lighting his way. But the jolly old guy could have used the red-nosed reindeer's help yesterday.
The snow that began falling during the morning yesterday and was still falling last night was not expected to accumulate anywhere near the record 23.2 inches that blanketed the city around this time last year. Eight inches had fallen at Philadelphia International Airport by about 8 p.m., the National Weather Service said.
Still, the storm shut down the region on the day after Christmas, prompting Philadelphia to declare a snow emergency, forcing cancellations of hundreds of flights and stalling shopping trips to area malls.
A highly anticipated game between the Eagles and Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field was postponed to 8 p.m. Tuesday, much to the dismay of fans.
Mayor Nutter, who issued the snow emergency at 2 p.m., made several stops around the city urging residents to stay off roads.
During one such stop about 5 p.m. at the Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza, at Broad and Oxford streets in North Philadelphia, Nutter advised patrons to wrap up their shopping and get home safely. Later, he visited city workers at the Emergency Operations Center, at 2nd and Spring Garden streets, where he also monitored ongoing cleanup efforts.
Since Christmas evening, the Streets Department began marshaling equipment and resources ahead of the season's first storm, according to city officials.
Garbage trucks will be used as snow plows, suspending today's regular trash pickup until next Monday, Nutter announced.
Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson said the city would have as many as 500 pieces of snow equipment on the streets.
"Our priority is public safety," she said. "Crews and trucks that normally are dedicated to trash and recycling will be fully engaged fighting this powerful storm."
Officials reminded residents to park their cars as far away from corners as possible and urged them to clear snow from fire hydrants. Citizens also were asked to clear 36 inches for a sidewalk path within six hours after the end of the storm.
Most important, Nutter said yesterday afternoon, Philadelphians should check in on their neighbors, particularly the elderly.
"Working together and with patience, we'll get through this storm just as we did the storms of last winter," he said.
SEPTA, despite canceling Bus Route 35 in Manayunk and other half-hour delays with most regional rails, had kept its promise to keep regional rails, buses, subways and trolleys running, said spokeswoman Jerri Williams.
Although riders were encouraged to stay home last night, Williams said transit officials made an extra effort to make this morning's commute an easy one.
"We have our de-icing equipment, both internally and outside contractors, to concentrate on the morning commute," she said.
PennDOT deployed more than 400 trucks to salt and plow the roads.
Across several state highways and interchanges, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, operating under a weather emergency, reduced speed limits to 45 mph.
Despite slippery driving conditions in Philadelphia, an investigator with the Police Accident Investigation Division reported no car accidents related to the weather as of yesterday evening.
Administrative offices of the Philadelphia School District are opening two hours late. Schools with principals and assistant principals who work a 12-month schedule are closed, as are all early-childhood centers.
In New Jersey, bus service on New Jersey Transit was suspended statewide yesterday and rail service was to be cut back today. The transit system will run fewer trains on most lines. Trains will run on an enhanced weekend schedule with more trains than a typical weekend but fewer than a regular weekday.
In South Jersey yesterday, cars cautiously made their way through snowy streets as drivers made last-minute dashes for groceries at the Trader Joe's on Route 73 in Marlton, for pet food at a PetSmart and for rock salt at a Sears farther south on Route 73 near Berlin. Visibility was poor and most people drove about 20 mph.
Staff writer Valerie Russ and the Associated Press also contributed to this report.