BOSTON – A winter storm that had already blanketed parts of the South in snow moved into the Northeast on Friday, snarling air travel, crushing commutes and giving a one-day respite to school districts struggling to keep kids in the classroom as coronavirus cases surged.
Schools in Boston closed, and Providence, Rhode Island, public schools switched to distance learning, but New York City kept the nation’s largest public school system open.
“Children need to be in school. We don’t have any more days to waste” after the many closures and remote-learning days of the pandemic, said New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat dealing with his first major storm after taking office Saturday.
But there was a sense of relief for some educators.
Michael Gow, a middle school social studies teacher in Medfield, Massachusetts, called Friday a “snowvid day” and acknowledged it gave parents and teachers a reprieve from the daily dilemma of whether to continue with in-person instruction as the pandemic rages.
“This is a well deserved break for all of the teachers, staff, and students dealing with the surge of omicron,” Gow tweeted.
In central Pennsylvania, Ericka Weathers, a Penn State University education professor, scrambled to finish a fellowship application by the end of the day while her two kids were home from school because of the snow.
“I’ve been trying to juggle,” she said as her 7-year-old sledded on the hill outside and her 4-year-old didn’t want to go out. “Every five minutes, someone’s asking me a question.”
By mid-afternoon, airlines had scrubbed more than 2,600 flights, with the largest numbers at airports in Boston and the New York City area, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Airlines have struggled with staffing shortages caused by an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.
By the time the storm started to wind down Friday afternoon, and the sun broke through in some areas, some spots in New England had received a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow, including more than 13 inches (33 centimeters) inches in Danielson, Connecticut; 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) in Westwood, Massachusetts; and 12 inches (30 centimeters) Burrillville, Rhode Island, according to unofficial observations reported by the National Weather Service.
Drivers were urged to stay off the roads, but there were reports of crashes around the region.
Plow driver Michael D’Andrea got a firsthand look at the mess on the roads. He saw plenty of vehicles spin out as the thick snow fell.
“The first storm is always a bit more dangerous,” said D'Andrea, 34, of Norwood, Massachusetts. “No one has driven in this weather for like six months. People have to relearn how to drive in this. And it’s usually not a foot of snow the first one. This is almost a blizzard with how fast it came down. 2022 is off to a bang, but I suppose we were overdue.”
A driver died around 7:30 a.m. when a car went off Route 140 in Freetown, Massachusetts, state police said. A commuter bus spun out of control and blocked lanes on the Massachusetts Turnpike just outside Boston early Friday. No injuries were reported.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday night declared a state of emergency, but the snow had ended by 10 a.m., allowing plows to do their thing. Preliminary snowfall amounts showed 6 inches had fallen in Berlin, with 5 inches in Howell.
The National Weather Service said 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) of snow fell on New York City’s Central Park.
Snowfall totals were much more modest in northern New England, with about 4.5 inches (11 centimeters) in Nashua, New Hampshire, and about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) in Hollis, Maine, by late morning.
The storm also affected coronavirus testing sites, many of which have been overwhelmed with long lines and waits for days. Some testing sites in Rhode Island delayed their openings. In Connecticut, most state-sponsored testing sites that are usually open Fridays closed because of the storm, but some sites run locally and by pharmacies, remained open.
The storm brought record-setting snow to some areas of the South on Thursday.
Nashville saw 6.3 inches (16 centimeters) Thursday, shattering the city’s previous Jan. 6 record of 4 inches (10 centimeters), which had stood since 1977, the weather service said.
The largest snowfall in Kentucky was nearly 10 inches (25 centimeters) in Lexington, according to the weather service.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Dave Collins in Glastonbury, Connecticut; Philip Marcelo in Stoneham, Massachusetts; and Bill Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island; and AP Business Writer David Koenig.
This story has been updated to correct that not all testing sites in Connecticut were closed.