IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Snow-downed trees could trip up NYC Marathon

Millions of Northeasterners might have to wait several more days to get power back due to the weekend snowstorm that also disrupted Halloween and could even trip up a hallowed tradition: the New York City Marathon.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Millions of Northeasterners might have to wait several more days to get power back due to the weekend snowstorm that also disrupted Halloween and could even trip up a hallowed tradition: the New York City Marathon.

Workers raced to clear paths and roads in Central Park in time for the marathon, which will wind through the park on Sunday.

Only about an inch of snow fell on the park, but it was so wet and heavy that it weighed down leaves and branches to the breaking point.

After Monday dawned sunny, tourists snapped photos of branches littering the ground.

"The park looks sad with all the trees down," said Nathalie Pienoel, of the Normandy region of France. "But it's also beautiful."

The storm damaged about half the park's 800 acres and could end up costing it 1,000 trees, said Dana Libner, spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy. It could cost $500,000 to repair the damage and replant.

Trees as large as 3 to 4 feet across were felled, Libner said. Many paths were blocked by yellow hazard tape Monday.

Damaged trees stand on the edge of Central Park in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York on October 31 2011 after parts of the Northeast were hit by a early-season storm that dumped wet, heavy snow that snapped trees and power lines, closed hundreds of schools, and disrupted Halloween in some areas. AFP PHOTO TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)Timothy A. Clary / AFP

The area around the shuttered Tavern on the Green restaurant, where the marathon ends, was busy Monday, with workers erecting bleachers at the finish line and others feeding fallen branches into a chipper.

A five-mile kickoff race that had been scheduled for last Sunday was canceled.

Tim Zagat, founder of the Zagat restaurant guide, commented on the damage as he took his morning walk.

"It's sort of amazing to see such a lot of devastation caused by a couple of inches of snow," he said. "It reminds you that in some ways it's still a wild place."

Hundreds of thousands of people across the Northeast shivered at the prospect of days without heat or lights, and many towns postponed trick-or-treating.

Families huddled under blankets and winter coats at home or waited out the crisis in shelters as utility crews struggled to fix downed power lines. Hundreds of schools closed.

"Such a small storm but such a big disaster," said Marina Shen, who spent Sunday night with her husband and dog at a middle school in Wayland, a Boston suburb of 13,000 where half the homes lost power. Just a few inches fell in Wayland, and most of it had melted by Monday, but overnight temperatures fell below freezing.

Worst hit: Conn., Mass., N.J.
The storm was blamed for at least 20 deaths, including one in Canada. Most were caused by falling trees, traffic accidents or electrocutions from downed wires. Eight people died in Pennsylvania alone.

Having dumped up to 32 inches in parts of the Northeast, the storm at its peak left 3 million homes and businesses without power.

But Monday night the number was still high, nearly 1.8 million customers. It will likely be days before power is restored to all residents in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and other states.

Despite a sunny Monday, several New Jersey Transit train lines going into New York City remained suspended.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said 100 state roads were closed and about 200 more partially closed.

Connecticut was particularly hard hit and Malloy called the power outages in his state the worst in history. "This is an historic storm," Malloy . "This is the largest number of power outages we have ever experienced."

Snow days, usually not tapped until at least after Thanksgiving, were declared by scores of public schools that remained shut throughout the Northeast.

The storm's lingering effects likely will outlast the snow.

"It was like wet cement that just adhered to trees, branches, leaves and power lines," said David Graves, spokesman for utility National Grid.

"That's what really caused the damage, the weight of that snow," he said.

Communities from Maryland to Maine that suffered through a tough winter last year followed by a series of floods and storms went into now-familiar emergency mode as shelters opened, inaccessible roads closed, regional transit was suspended or delayed, and local leaders urged caution.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared statewide damage to utilities worse than that wrought by Hurricane Irene, a deadly storm that blew through the state in August.

North of New York City, dozens of motorists were rescued by state troopers after spending 10 hours or more stranded on snowy highways in Dutchess and Putnam counties.

Passengers on at least three JetBlue planes and one American Airline plane said they were stranded on the tarmac for seven hours or more after being diverted from New York-area airports on Saturday.

"What a storm, my power is still out!" said a Monday morning Twitter post from Sen. Scott Brown about his Wrentham, Mass., home.

Trees, branches and power lines still littered roads and rail lines throughout the region, leading to a tough Monday morning commute. The ice was responsible for several accidents in the Philadelphia area on Monday morning,

'No gas anywhere'
In Hartford, Conn., commuters hunted for open gas stations. At a 7-Eleven, two dozen cars waited early Monday in a line that stretched into the street and disrupted traffic.

"I'm sitting here thinking I'm going to run out of gas," said Mitchell Celella, 45, of Canaan, Conn., who was trying to make it to his job as an ice cream maker in West Hartford.

Debra Palmisano said everything was closed in her hometown of Plainville; she spent most of the morning looking for gas around the capital city.

"There's no gas anywhere. It's like we're in a war zone. It's pretty scary, actually," she said.

Some local officials canceled or postponed Halloween activities, fearful that young trick-or-treaters could wander into areas with downed power lines or trees ready to topple over. Many towns around the state have moved the festivities to later in week, reported.

No 'quick fix'
The storm smashed record snowfall totals for October and worsened as it moved north. Communities in western Massachusetts were among the hardest hit. Snowfall totals reached a record 32 inches in Peru, Mass., and topped 27 inches in Plainfield. Nearby Windsor got 26 inches.

Compounding the storm's impact were still-leafy trees, which gave the snow something to hang onto and that put tremendous weight on branches, said National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro. That led to limbs breaking off and contributed to the widespread power failures.

Along the coast and in such cities as Boston, relatively warm water helped keep snowfall totals much lower. Washington received a trace of snow, tying a 1925 record for the date. New York City's Central Park set a record for both the date and for October with 1.3 inches.

But in New Hampshire's capital of Concord, more than 22 inches fell, weeks ahead of the usual first measurable snowfall. West Milford, N.J., about 45 miles northwest of New York City, had 19 inches by early Sunday.

Rail service was getting back up to speed across the region, though delays were expected. Amtrak had suspended service on several routes, and one train from Chicago to Boston got stuck overnight in Palmer, Mass. The 48 passengers had food and heat, a spokeswoman said, and were taken by bus Sunday to their destinations.

Deaths blamed on the storm included an 84-year-old Pennsylvania man killed by a tree that fell on his home, a person who died in a traffic accident in Colchester, Conn., and a 20-year-old man who was electrocuted in Springfield, Mass.

Many Northeasterners were trying to take the storm in stride after a string of two harsh winters — many communities set or approached snowfall records last winter — followed by flooding from tropical systems Irene and Lee.

Doug Burdi, a scientist from Arlington, Mass., northwest of Boston, had the day off Monday because the pharmaceutical company he works for lost power.

Burdi said he's not yet ready to worry about another harsh winter, despite the intensity of the early storm. "Let's call it a freak. It makes us feel better when we think of it that way," he said. "I don't want to be fatalistic about it."

The National Weather Service acknowledged that residents shouldn't necessarily expect "Snowtober" a harbinger of a hard winter to come. Long-term models indicate a slightly drier start to the season, although there's a chance of above-normal precipitation later on, said Aaron Tyburski, a NWS meteorologist in State College, Pa.

"There's always going to be anomalous events," he said. "While it is quite an event, we may go the next month and not get any snow."