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Snowstorm postpones Eagles game, snarls Philadelphia travel

The first major snowstorm of the winter, with high winds and freezing conditions, dumped more than a foot of snow on much of the Philadelphia region Sunday, snarling travel and postponing the Eagles-Vikings game.

Sisters Lisa and Debbie Fisher of Havertown make their way through Sunday afternoon's snow at Suburban Square in Ardmore. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Sisters Lisa and Debbie Fisher of Havertown make their way through Sunday afternoon's snow at Suburban Square in Ardmore. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)Read more

The first major snowstorm of the winter, with high winds and freezing conditions, dumped more than a foot of snow on much of the Philadelphia region Sunday, snarling travel and postponing the Eagles-Vikings game.

Blizzard conditions were expected to continue into Monday, with winds likely to gust to 50 m.p.h.

The wintry nor'easter hit hardest in eastern reaches of the region, with up to 20 inches of snow expected along the New Jersey coast. Philadelphia anticipated nearly a foot of snow, and Mayor Nutter declared a snow emergency Sunday afternoon that was to remain in effect Monday.

Although snow was expected to taper off by dawn Monday, increasing winds threatened to make the morning commute treacherous.

"You'll have a foot of snow and a ton of blowing and drifting," said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with Accu-Weather in State College, Pa. "It will be very hard to keep roads open for a while, with the wind."

Winds will remain strong until Wednesday, Mottice said, sustained at 30 to 35 m.p.h. and gusting up to 50 m.p.h.

Philadelphia city workers were expected to report on Monday as usual, but other communities, including Cherry Hill, said municipal offices would be closed.

"The city is open for business," said Mark McDonald, spokesman for Nutter. "The fortunate thing is there is no school, and many people had a choice of taking Monday off for the Christmas holiday, so it should be a lighter-than-usual commute, giving the Streets Department a chance with its 500 pieces of equipment to get the major streets cleared."

With trash trucks pressed into service to help with snow removal, normal trash collection was suspended in Philadelphia for Monday.

In New Jersey, a state of emergency was declared by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, serving as acting governor because Gov. Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno were out of the state.

"It is vital that police and public-works crews are able to do their jobs," Sweeney said. "I urge all residents to take this declaration and this storm seriously, and to stay safe, stay home, and stay off the roads."

Camden County declared a local emergency, requiring nonessential workers to stay off the roads.

"We're certainly worried about tomorrow's rush hour," said Dan Keashen, spokesman for Cherry Hill, a hub of much of South Jersey's traffic. "We're asking anyone who doesn't have to be on the roads [on Monday] to stay off the roads."

The snowfall was expected to make this month one of the snowiest Decembers in Philadelphia history, although it won't rival last year's record-setting winter deluge.

In 2009, 24.1 inches of snow fell in Philadelphia in December. If the city receives the expected 12 inches by Monday morning, that would put December 2010 in seventh place among December snowfalls, just behind the 12.5 inches of 1910, according to National Weather Service data.

Sunday's storm closed runways at Philadelphia International Airport and airports throughout much of the eastern United States, as wind-driven snow fell along a vast swath from North Carolina to Maine. Travelers heading home after Christmas were stranded all along the I-95 corridor, and Amtrak canceled train service from New York City to Boston.

SEPTA trains, buses, and trolleys were delayed, detoured, and halted as the snow piled up. NJ Transit train operations were also slowed; its bus operations were suspended at 8:30 p.m. NJ Transit also said it would run fewer trains on most of its lines Monday as cleanup continues and demand is expected to be light.

Traffic on even major roads such as I-95 and I-295 slowed to a crawl Sunday afternoon, with highway crews struggling to keep lanes salted and plowed.

Scattered minor power outages had occurred across New Jersey by late Sunday afternoon, but utility officials said no major storm-related problems had been reported. They did warn, though, that the heavy snow, icing, and strong winds could increase the chance of downed power lines.

The postponed NFL game between the Eagles and Vikings was rescheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday.

NFL officials said the last time an NFL game was played on a Tuesday night was in October 1946. And the last time the Eagles played on a Tuesday was in September 1944, when they went up against the "Boston Yankees" at Fenway Park.

The decision to postpone the game did not sit well with Gov. Rendell, who told CBS3 he did "not at all" agree with the postponement.

"This is football; football's played in bad weather," he said. "I think the fans would have gotten there, the subways work and the major arteries are still open, and other fans would have stayed home, but you play football regardless of the weather." The governor, who does football commentaries after Eagles games, also said the decision would be a "serious handicap" for the Eagles and was unfair to the team.

"I, for one, was looking forward to sitting in the stands throughout the snow and seeing an old-time football game," Rendell said.

The snow emergency, announced by Nutter at 2 p.m. Sunday, triggered key parking and snow-removal regulations, as well as the opening of emergency shelters for the homeless and around-the-clock response on the city's 311 hotline.

But by 3 p.m. Sunday, most of the calls to that line were about the Eagles game, a city spokesman said.

Six city-owned parking lots put reduced rates for overnight parking into effect because the official snow emergency requires the removal of cars parked on evacuation routes.

Cars parked at the $5 flat rate must be moved by 6 p.m. Monday. However, cars entering those lots after 8 a.m. Monday will be charged the normal posted rates.

The lots are at Fifth and Market Streets, Second and Sansom, 10th and Filbert, Eighth and Filbert, 10th and Ludlow, and JFK Plaza.

At Philadelphia International, more than 70 percent of flights were canceled, and by 4 p.m., Southwest and American Airlines had ceased operations.

On the home front, children - especially those with new sleds - greeted the region's first significant snow accumulation with a bit more glee than their parents.

With most schools closed for the week, no official snow day will be needed Monday. A hot-cocoa day might be more in order, and plenty of shoveling.

SEPTA spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyos said her three daughters, ages 3, 9, and 12, were itching to play in the snow.

"We just got a Yorkie puppy for Christmas," Hoyos said, "But he's only 10 weeks old, too small to go outside."

Hoyos said the shoveling would be her husband's job.

See a video and more photographs, and submit your own snow photo at EndText