A slow-moving storm that blanketed swaths of the mid-Atlantic with nearly 2 feet of snow reached southern New England on Sunday in a weekend assault along the East Coast that caused at least five deaths, crippled travel and left empty stores normally crammed with holiday shoppers.
Blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts with gusts up to 60 mph. As much as 16 inches of snow was expected to cover parts of southern New England.
But the early arrival of wintry weather on a quiet Sunday morning could not have been better timing, said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
"Other than spoiling the Christmas shopping - from the emergency manager perspective it was the perfect timing," Judge said. "Even the cleanup today, we're not fighting the people who would be trying to get to work."
Still others were struggling with the aftermath.
On the cusp of the winter solstice, the storm dropped 16 inches of snow on Reagan National Airport outside Washington on Saturday - the most ever recorded there for a single December day - and gave southern New Jersey its highest single-storm snowfall totals in nearly four years. Some of the deepest was recorded in the Philadelphia suburb of Medford, N.J., at 24 inches.
"For those who are looking for a white Christmas, this certainly will stick around for Christmastime," National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Sullivan told AP Radio.
Even the NFL, with its hallowed tradition of playing in all weather conditions, including football fields nicknamed "frozen tundras," pushed back the scheduled start times of games Sunday in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Around New York City, the brunt of the storm hit Long Island, with blizzard conditions. Nearly 25 inches were recorded in Upton. Crews clearing roads early Sunday reported whiteout conditions, said Lt. Robert P. Iberger of the Southampton police.
Nearly 11 inches of snow fell on New York City by Sunday morning, and the storm could be the worst the city has seen since about 26 inches fell in Central Park in February 2006, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Maloit said.
Even as the storm winded down in the metro area, conditions remained treacherous and drivers were advised to stay off the roads, Maloit said. Delays were expected on bus, subway and train routes.
Near Farmingdale, N.Y., about 150 people were stranded on a Long Island Rail Road train for more than five hours by a combination of snow drifts, icing, traffic problems and equipment failures due to the weather.
Railroad spokeswoman Susan McGowan said the Ronkonkoma-bound train left Penn Station at 2:53 a.m. Sunday and eventually had to be towed to a nearby station and passengers put on a second train and sent on their way. No injuries were reported.
McGowan says LIRR was offering only limited service, and delays were averaging two hours.
With strong wind gusts to keep the powdery snow swirling, the storm was so bad on Saturday that attractions such as the Smithsonian museums in Washington and the Philadelphia Zoo were closed. The National Mall, normally swarming with tourists, instead was the scene of snowball fights.