After pestering the region for more four days and generating the region’s biggest snowfall in five years, with double-digit totals common on both sides of the river, the storm that wouldn’t end has been shaking out rounds of snow showers Wednesday as it pulls away.
The showers have left little more than whitewash topping on what already had fallen, and should yield to decent cleanup conditions later in the day and Thursday.
That said, if you’ve had your quota of snow for now, you may want to skip the next paragraph and move on to another item, say, our story about Puppy Bowl XVII.
Computer models are suggesting the possibility of another storm affecting the region Sunday into Monday, perhaps with more snow. “There’s definitely a potential,” Trent Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly, said Tuesday. It was unclear Wednesday whether that would be a nuisance snowfall or something major.
By then, a considerable amount of the snow and ice should be gone. Temperatures the next two days will be above freezing during the day, and the February sun is gaining power by the day.
In the meantime, some folks could end up with very sore backs. Better than 30 inches was measured in far northern Bucks County near the Lehigh Valley. Snow totals typically ranged from eight to 10 inches in South Jersey, 10 to 15 north and west of the city, and up to 10 in the city.
Philly’s official 8.1 inches was the most since a January 2016 storm. The paltry 1.3 measured Tuesday and early Wednesday was more than quadruple what fell during the entire winter of 2019-20. “I was kind of wondering if I’d remember how to drive in it,” said Davis, who moved here from Ohio in 2018.
Tuesday marked the first time in 18 years that Philadelphia officially had experienced an inch or more of snow on three consecutive days, according to Tony Gigi, a meteorologist who helps run the phillywx.com chat board, and the storm’s impacts will lap into the melting period.
Catholic elementary schools in Philadelphia will open two hours late Wednesday, and parochial high schools will remain fully virtual for another day. Suburban Catholic schools will follow the decisions of their local school districts.
The three-day snow-and-ice siege, with wind gusts up to 50 mph and the worst of it coming during a workday rush hour, almost certainly would have been far more disruptive in normal times. But pandemic restrictions and other concerns have emptied offices, schools, and public-transit vehicles.
Profoundly heavy snows clocked parts of upstate Pennsylvania and North Jersey, and at least one death was reported in Allentown, and two people reportedly were shot to death in a snow-removal dispute in Luzerne County.
Trauma, however, was minimal around Philadelphia, by most accounts, and the region awoke to one of the more aesthetically magnificent snowfalls in recent memory, one that achieved a “wintry ambience ... appreciated by snow-lovers,” in the words of the weather service’s morning forecast discussion.
That the evergreens and the bare branches were tufted and layered thickly with snow spoke to one aspect of the region’s good fortune. For most utility customers, this was nearly a perfect storm. Peco experienced about 11,000 power outages total, well under 1% of its customers, said Myra Bergman, the utility’s vice president for communications, and it avoided major tree issues.
Why? The snow that began accumulating early Sunday afternoon got knocked off the trees by that 12 to 16 hours of sleet, which bounces off branches and wires, and by high winds. The sleet, which weighs about three times as much as snow, also helped anchor the tree bases in the frozen ground. By the time the heavy snow moved in Monday afternoon, the winds had backed off. The trees were able to hold their own as they held their snow.
SEPTA also held its own, canceling some Regional Rail runs Monday and detouring dozens of bus routes, but the Broad Street and Market-Frankford subways operated nearly normally.
The city lifted its state of emergency Tuesday, and announced it would resume trash and recycling collection Wednesday. Those who get pickups Mondays and Tuesdays were told to hold their trash until next week.
Temperatures possibly reaching the 40s on Friday should accelerate the melting. However, overnight freezes likely will create some dangerous black ice, and it’s possible that another winter storm could hit the region late in the weekend, which would be about the last thing the city’s $4.8 billion budget — already operating on razor-thin margins due to the coronavirus pandemic — needs.
Finance officials warned in a November report that it would have only $22.9 million in reserves by the end of the fiscal year. And while the city had no cleanup cost estimate yet, said spokesperson Mike Dunn, the report said that a “significant snowstorm” could devour that amount in a few days.
And meteorologists say it could take another hit next week. The European forecast model was bullish on a storm that would take a classic coastal track, more typical of the ones that produce major I-95 snows, although it appeared to be less enthusiastic about the potential on Wednesday. Such a storm is known as a “Miller-A,” named for the researcher who came up with the classification system in 1946.
The one that has been pestering the region since noon Sunday — and was still spinning 150 miles off New Jersey on Tuesday — traces its lineage to a feature that traveled across the country, lost its punch as it came eastward, then redeveloped on the Atlantic Coast as a nor’easter.
“Miller-As are notorious for being stronger than Miller-Bs,” said Brett Rossio, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. “We are closely watching.”
He noted that the American computer model so far isn’t seeing much of a threat, compared with the European forecast.
“There’s still a lot of disagreement, like people having an argument,” said Reynolds Wolf, a Weather Channel meteorologist who was in Philadelphia covering this storm.
Said Rossio: “This is still a long way out. It’s still early.”
Inquirer staff writers Tom Fitzgerald and Kristen A. Graham and the Associated Press contributed to this article.