Wicked storm packs snow, wind
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The first major snowstorm of the season walloped New York City and the suburbs on Saturday night.
Stores closed early and driving became treacherous as snow began sticking to the roads. Dozens of flights were cancelled at area airports.
Hardly any snow fell during the day, but at sunset, snow started to fall steadily and it only got heavier as the night wore on.
By show time, the Great White Way fully lived up to its name, but theatergoers who spent weeks planning for their big night weren't going to let the weather spoil it.
"This is our Christmas present so we're still going out," one theatergoer said.
One family from New Providence, New Jersey came prepared. They packed an emergency kit, just in case they have to crash in the city for the night.
For tourists in Times Square, it was a picture perfect night. For those who have to work, it's another story.
The Sanitation Department was rolling out 350 salt spreaders and two thousand snowplows to cover more than six thousand miles of city streets.
The city suspended alternate side parking regulations Saturday in preparation for the first snowfall. The city has 350 salt spreaders, 2,000 snowplows and 250,000 tons of rock salt at its disposal.
The MTA was putting its fleet of snow and ice-busting equipment into action to ensure minimal disruption to services over the weekend. The fleet includes superpowered snow throwers, jet-powered snow blowers and de-icing cars.
The snow was slow to arrive in the city, but that helped holiday shoppers trying to wrap up ahead of it.
At Manhattan Mall, a few blocks away from Macy's flagship store in New York, stores like J.C. Penney were still bustling at midday, when snow hadn't yet materialized. But even shoppers who took the train in to the city were wary.
Natalie McCann, of Edison, N.J., said she would probably cut short her annual trip into the city because of the building storm. But it wasn't the snow that was keeping her from spending big on gifts.
"I'm just not that enthusiastic this year," said McCann, 47, who says she's cutting her spending significantly to about $750.
The storm roared across Long Island with a vengeance. By 8:00 p.m., it was nearly a white out with forecasts predicting 18 inches before the storm moved out.
Plows and sanders struggled to keep pace with blowing and drifting snow that kept on coming.
Some motorists seemed caught off-guard even by a snow storm that had been in the forecast for two days.
There was no calm before this storm, as dire forecasts sent Long Islanders scrambling to the supermarkets. But by early evening, there were more plows than people and downtown Huntington was nearly deserted on a Saturday night.
Earlier, last minute shoppers turned out in droves in Carle Place creating long lines and traffic jams and impossible parking situations. Even when the snow arrived the non stop flurry of shoppers didn't let up. Toys R Us was a revolving door of madness. At Best Buy, customers waited and waited to check out.
Residents were baffled by the amount of snow in Red Bank, New Jersey.
"Probably a million feet," Mike McDonald laughed.
It sure felt like it as Red Bank neighbors waddled through streets, especially secondary roads.
In some parts, there's knee deep snow because the plows keep piling it on to make way.
It was hard to walk, hard to talk and hard to see in the white out conditions. The snow was taking no prisoners.
It was an endless battle against Mother Nature. The weapons of choice for many -- a shovel and elbow grease.
"There's not many cars out because I don't think many can make it through it," Kristy Giyllot said
But for those who did try to drive, if they didn't have momentum and patience, they slid and then turned around to look for another way to go.
"It's pretty much a white out. I don't know why my wife let my drive the car tonight," Ray Brown said.
Numerous accidents and spinouts were reported across New Jersey, and speed limits were reduced on most major highways.
Greyhound bus service was shut down from Washington D.C. and New York. Spokeswoman Maureen Richmond says Greyhound took its buses off the road about 1 p.m. Saturday.
The majority of the scheduled flights at Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday were canceled because of a snow storm that blanketed much of the East Coast. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says some 350 flights were canceled there. The story was much the same at Laguardia and JFK, a ripple effect of cancelations at airports in Philadelphia and Washington.
The good news was that delays were minor for the flights that did take off. They were averaging under 30 minutes.
N.J. Burkett, Lauren DeFranco, Carolina Leid and Bob Monek contributed to this report.
Some information from the Associated Press.
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