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Not a blizzard, but snowfall was one for the books

Football fans in Minnesota were berating Philadelphians as weather wimps Monday after snows forced postponement of the Eagles' Sunday night game against the Vikings.

By late Monday afternoon, a crew of 600 had cleared out most of the stadium in anticipation of Tuesday night's Eagles-Vikings game. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
By late Monday afternoon, a crew of 600 had cleared out most of the stadium in anticipation of Tuesday night's Eagles-Vikings game. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)Read more

Football fans in Minnesota were berating Philadelphians as weather wimps Monday after snows forced postponement of the Eagles' Sunday night game against the Vikings.

But by the time the snow had stopped falling, residents were shoveling, driving, and slip-sliding through a foot of white stuff - Philadelphia's 17th-heaviest one-day snowfall on record, according to the National Weather Service.

Coming in from the south on winds that gusted as high as 62 m.p.h. at Wilmington's airport, the storm left accumulations of just two to six inches to the north of the city, but dropped 26 inches on parts of Cape May County, piled 30 inches on Brick Township, Ocean County, and paralyzed New York City and much of New England.

One New York subway train was stuck on a frozen track for seven hours before its passengers were rescued, and 70 cars and two buses were immobilized overnight on the Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County. Six passengers were taken to area hospitals.

Gusts of 30, 40, and 50 m.p.h. were reported throughout the region, according to the weather service.

Raquel and Amir Dayan of Philadelphia, stranded on the median strip of I-195 in New Jersey, said the falling snow was so blinding they did not realize at first they had veered off the highway. "You couldn't see anything," Raquel Dayan said.

Joe Dee, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said state transportation and turnpike workers and private tow trucks helped about 2,300 motorists on state roadways during the storm. Public Service Electric & Gas reported that about 2,000 homes across New Jersey lost power during the day.

Although snowfall in the Pennsylvania suburbs was lighter (8.6 inches in Media, 6 inches in Phoenixville, 2 inches in Oxford), some SEPTA rail lines were delayed more than 90 minutes Monday morning, and problems and cancellations persisted well into the evening.

By 2 p.m., Delaware County plow driver Leo Sides had notched 202 miles on his truck as high winds repeatedly blew snow over streets already plowed. Sides said he went over a one-mile stretch of MacDade Boulevard at least 12 times.

Drifting snow was even more problematic in the open rural spaces of Central and Upper Bucks County, said Jenny Robinson, a spokeswoman for PennDot. In Lower Bucks, some ramps to I-95 were "blown shut" and had to be repeatedly plowed, Robinson said.

In New Jersey, with both the governor and the lieutenant governor on vacation, State Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) issued a state of emergency as the acting governor and ordered all state offices closed. NJ Transit and PATCO trains were also put on modified schedules for the day, and NJ Transit bus service was halted system-wide.

"Most of our buses' routes traverse many towns and multiple counties," NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel explained. Officials have to consider the conditions on the entire length of the routes, "not just the conditions in any individual town."

West winds of about 10 m.p.h. are expected for Tuesday's delayed night game between the Eagles and Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the upper 30s during the week, according to Anthony Gigi, a meteorologist with the weather service in Mount Holly, which recorded 12.9 inches of snow between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

Though not an official blizzard, the final snowstorm of 2010 was "sort of a big deal," said Gigi, who noted that Philadelphia has recorded only 20 snowfalls of more than a foot since record-keeping began in 1884-85.

Such statistics did not impress Vikings fans, however. A foot of snow in Philadelphia "is like three feet in Minnesota," one fan grumped on the website of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Get some snowplows!" another fan urged Philadelphia.

The city had plenty of plows in play, according to Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson. By 2 p.m. Monday, she said, drivers had plowed major arteries such as Broad and Market Streets eight times, a result of the heavy winds that kept repiling snow.

"We keep losing lanes as the snow goes back in," Tolson said. Ninety percent of city roads had been plowed at least once by midafternoon, said Tolson.

But there was a bright side to the final snowstorm of 2010, she added: Traffic was light, since the flakes began falling on the Sunday of a holiday weekend and most schools are closed for Christmas break.

In the Fairmount section, John Mabin was bundled in a parka and ski mask as he shoveled a route on the sidewalk so that customers could get to his employer, Fairmount Hardware.

Mabin even figured out a simple fix for his leaky boots: He wrapped duct tape around their centers. Even so, he said, "my feet are freezing."

The city lifted its snow emergency at 9 p.m. Monday. Regular trash and recycling collections were to resume Tuesday, but Tolson said residents with rear-driveway pickups must place their trash and recycling bins curbside.

The snowfall was a disappointment to many retailers, since the day after Christmas is typically among the five busiest sales days of the year.

Cherry Hill Mall delayed its opening until noon Monday, according to marketing director Lisa Wolstromer. She said stores were hoping to pick up business later in the day as roads were cleared, and through the remainder of the week.

Most stores at the King of Prussia mall were open by 10:30 a.m., though some of the larger stores, including Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor, delayed their openings.

In all, Monday was irksome day for just about anyone without a sled.

Confident that the U.S. Postal Service would live up to its creed about reliability in all kinds of weather, Stacey Brantley bundled up, leaving only her eyes exposed, and headed on foot for the Fairmount post office from her home at 20th and Wallace Streets. She got a surprise when she tugged on the glass door and it didn't budge.

A sign taped to the door that said the facility would be closed all day "due to inclement weather."

"It never even occurred to me they would shut down," she said, clutching a few bills she had intended to mail.

"It's a bit of an inconvenience," she said, and trudged back home through the gray slush over mounds of snow.