Historic’ winter storm churns up blizzards but also relief as forecast punch fell short

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Big blizzard falls short of forecasts(1:24)

Snowfall in the Northeast is heavy Tuesday morning, but accumulation is stacking up to be less than predicted in many places.

By Brian Murphy January 27 at 10:07 AM
From New York suburbs to Maine fishing ports, much of the East Coast faced a winter lockdown Tuesday as a wind-whipped storm — billed in advance as a “historic” blizzard — closed airports, shut down subway and rail lines and turned cities into snowy ghost towns.
But there also was something of a collective sigh of relief.
The warnings of a monster whiteout appeared to fall short, especially in New York and points south. The National Weather Service said the storm moved faster — and farther out to sea — than earlier tracking forecasts.
The result was still an impressive display of winter wrath.
Snowfall up to two feet deep was expected in some of the hardest-hit areas from eastern Long Island to Maine. Wind gusts exceeding 70 mph lashed parts of the coast.
Mammoth winter storm underway on East Coast

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Meteorologists have forecast up to three feet of snow in some areas.

“It feels like a hurricane with snow,” Maureen Keller told the Associated Press in Montauk on Long Island’s eastern tip.
On Cape Cod, officials warned about serious erosion and possible breaches of seawalls. Stores on Martha’s Vineyard were swarmed by people stocking up with provisions of all kinds.
“It’s kind of like the Fourth of July weekend at the end of January,” Debbie Healy, a store clerk on the island, told the Vineyard Gazette.
But predictions of a knockout blow for nearly 58 million people along the coast seemed to fizzle as dawn broke.
Blizzard warnings and most travel bans were lifted in New York and New Jersey. Subway and rail service was expected to resume later Tuesday, and the opening bell on the Stock Exchange rang as usual.
The mayor of Danbury, Conn., used a Twitter post to sum up the feelings of high anxiety and then lower-than-expected snowfall totals.
“Way too much hype,” wrote Mark D. Boughton.
But it was still a big-time snow day along the nation’s most densely populated corridor, and howling winds gave the storm an even more menacing feel.
In Boston, subway and transit systems were closed. About 500 National Guard members were on standby around the state.
Even on Broadway, the show didn’t go on. Theaters were dark on Monday as officials urged people to head home before the storm hit.
Normally bustling commuter hubs were empty. In a rare moment, Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal was silent. “Still a beautiful site,” said an online post by the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Boston’s South Station was turned into a temporary shelter for the homeless.
Amtrak announced it suspended rail service in the New England region and had limited operations between New York and Washington, which was spared the brunt of the storm. An estimated 7,700 flights have been canceled since Monday across the region.
And the weather-defying postal service? The storm halted mail delivery over large areas in Long Island and southern New England. U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Christine Dugas said service “will resume on Wednesday where it is safe to do so.”
In Maine and New Hampshire, states of emergency were declared, and officials said all state offices would be closed. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered roads closed for all but essential travel. “Stay in your house until you hear otherwise,” she said.
Across the region, utility companies put additional crews on standby for anticipated power outages from wind-toppled lines.
The National Weather Service, meanwhile, noted that nature can play tricks on even the most sophisticated forecasting technology.
“The science of forecasting storms, while continually improving, still can be subject to error, especially if we’re on the edge of the heavy precipitation shield,” said a statement. “Efforts, including research, are already underway to more easily communicate that forecast uncertainty.”
The storm delivered only a “glancing blow” around Baltimore and Washington, said meteorologist Jim Lee of the National Weather Service.