Updated: 5 p.m.
In the face of an intensifying storm Tuesday that caused officials to declare a snow emergency for the city of Philadelphia, the Office of Emergency Management at 3 p.m. began a limited activation of the Emergency Operation Center to coordinate municipal services. Agencies staffing the center include the police, fire and streets departments, along with SEPTA, PennDOT and the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Residents are asked to call 311 for snow-related updates and to reserve 911 for medical emergencies or life-threatening situations. The 311 call center will be open 24 hours a day for the duration of the snow emergency.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said the fire department's emergency communications center was on Tuesday receiving an influx of calls, about 22 more calls per hour than the day before. "The majority of calls are for falls, difficulty breathing – people are shoveling snow and doing other things - and also auto accidents," Ayers said. "We're asking that you take your time. If you don't have to be out, don't go out, but if you are out, use extreme caution right now."
Ayers asked residents to review home safety escape plans and to monitor heaters using smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Mayor Michael Nutter reminded residents to check in on vulnerable neighbors, including senior citizens and shut-ins. He said conditions are expected to deteriorate through Tuesday night until the storm ends between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Wednesday. Nutter said it hadn't yet been determined how long the snow emergency would last but that city officials would provide an update at some point Wednesday.
Updated: 3:05 p.m.
Chaos on roads, highways and transit lines caused massive delays and traffic jams as the region's third snowstorm of the season continued to intensify into the late afternoon.
Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency in Philadelphia at 4 p.m. Tuesday, meaning vehicles must be removed at that time from snow emergency routes. The city's emergency command center was activated at 3 p.m.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie — whose inaugural gala planned for tonight was canceled due to the weather — also declared a state of emergency.
Philadelphia officials are also bracing for the storm's aftermath: Nutter said all city schools will be closed Wednesday. City of Philadelphia offices will also be closed Wednesday. All non-essential personnel are asked to stay off the roads.
The mayor warned Philadelphians to be prepared for dangerous road conditions Wednesday, as the salting and brining processes used to treat snow- and ice-covered streets are less effective in the very cold temperatures expected overnight and Wednesday.
SEPTA announced at 2 p.m. that workers who left their Center City offices en masse by 1:30 p.m. created a massive logjam at the city's two downtown stations: Market East and Suburban. Delays on all Regional Rail lines were already an hour.
"Many trains will be filled to capacity and passengers can expect delays of up to 60 minutes on all lines. SEPTA asks for our passengers' patience," SEPTA said in a statement at 2 p.m.
At 3 p.m., Regional Rail lines were so jammed that some trains stopping at 30th Street Station were not picking up passengers, according to one waiting commuter Catherine Odson. She said Amtrak police were preventing riders from accessing the station's platforms.
SEPTA said service on bus Route 35 was suspended due to the weather, and passengers on all routes should expect delays of up to 30 minutes.
PATCO said it began operating on a snow schedule at 1:45 p.m., with trains running every 10 minutes.
New Jersey Transit said tickets and passes would be cross-honored systemwide so passengers could adjust their travel due to the snow.
Shortly before 1 p.m. N.J. Transit said River Line service was temporarily suspended in both directions between the Walter Rand Transportation Center and Entertainment Center due to weather conditions.
And bus riders in South Jersey should brace themselves for delays of up to 60 minutes, the agency said.
The Rush Bus service in Bucks County was suspended for the rest of the day.
A number of flights out of Philadelphia International Airport for this afternoon and evening were canceled.
Some airlines, including US Airways, were relaxing their ticket-change policies for passengers traveling through Philadelphia and other East Coast airports during the storm.
And speed restrictions were in effect on some Pennsylvania highways, PennDOT said.
Speed limits were reduced to 45 mph on Interstates 76, 95, 476 and 676; U.S. Routes 1, 30, 202 and 422; and state Routes 63, 100 spur and 309.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority announced several garages would charge a discounted parking rate of $5 for each 24-hour period until the snow emergency's end. Those are:
-the AutoPark located at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard
-the AutoPark at Independence Mall, located at 5th and Market streets
-the AutoPark at Jefferson, located at 10th and Ludlow streets
-the AutoPark at the Gallery, located at 10th and Filbert streets
-the Auto Park at Old City, located at 2nd and Sansom streets
-the 8th and Filbert streets garage
Customers must bring their ticket to the PPA management office in each garage to receive the discount.
Drivers are reminded to not park in snow emergency routes so Streets Department personnel have room to salt and plow roads. Those whose cars are towed from snow emergency routes can call 215-686-SNOW to find their vehicles.
A number of school districts, including Philadelphia, announced early Tuesday morning they would be closing early or canceling classes in anticipation of heavy snowfall.
Many after-school activities were also being postponed or canceled. A sampling:
-All Philadelphia School District schools and early-childhood programs dismissed students at 12:30 p.m.
-Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools were closed Tuesday. Other districts closed Tuesday include Garnet Valley School District and Upper Darby School District, both in Delaware County.
-Camden City Schools in Camden County, N.J. dismissed students at 12:30 p.m. Staffers were dismissed at 1 p.m.
-Cherry Hill High Schools West and East in Camden County dismissed early at 1:30 p.m. The middle schools dismissed at 2:15 and the elementary schools dismissed at 3:30 p.m. All after-school activities were canceled.
-Some local colleges were also canceling classes Tuesday, including Villanova University (closing at 11:30 a.m.), Rowan University (closing at 3 p.m.), Bryn Mawr College (closing at noon), Haverford College (closing at 1 p.m.), Rutgers University (closing at 3 p.m.), Temple University (closing at 1 p.m.), the University of Pennsylvania (closing at 2 p.m.) and St. Joseph's University (closing at 12:15 p.m.).
Some government offices, businesses and attractions also announced early closings due to the weather. Closings include:
-Delaware County government offices and the county courthouse closed at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and will reopen at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, a two-hour delay.
-Chester County government facilities closed at noon.
-Montgomery County offices and the county courthouse closed at noon. The facilities will open two hours late on Wednesday.
-Philadelphia city employees, except essential workers, were dismissed at 12:30 p.m.
-Inmate visits at Philadelphia jails were canceled beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing through Wednesday.
-Philadelphia courts closed at 12:30 p.m. Critical divisions -- Municipal Court's preliminary arraignment court, bail acceptance, emergency protection from abuse and the warrant unit -- remained open. The District Attorney's Office also closed at 12:30 p.m.
-The Camden County courthouse closed at 1:30 p.m.
-Burlington County offices closed at 12:30 p.m.
Attractions and other closings
-The Philadelphia Zoo closed at noon.
-The Free Library of Philadelphia closed at 12:30 p.m.
-Camden County library branches closed starting at 1 p.m.
-The Please Touch Museum closed at 1 p.m.
-Independence National Historical Park closed at noon.
-Eastern State Penitentiary shut down at 1 p.m.
-The National Constitution Center closed at 1 p.m.
-Exton Square Mall closed at 3 p.m.
-The Plymouth Meeting Mall closed at 3 p.m.
-The Cherry Hill Mall will close at 5 p.m.
-The Franklin Institute closed at 2 p.m.
Check back for details as they develop.