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Groundhog Day: New Jerseyans burrow out - again

January 28, 2011 12:48:03 PM PST
After digging out his driveway for the "umpteenth time" this winter and knocking some large chunks of ice off his car, Joel Davis stood outside his Toms River home and wondered when he would ever see his lawn again.

"I like the snow and I expect to get some living here, but this is nuts," Davis said as he prepared to head off to work. "I can't remember the last time everything wasn't snow covered. We didn't get a white Christmas, but it seems that it's been white ever since."

Davis and other weather-weary New Jerseyans spent much of Thursday morning cleaning up after the latest winter storm to sock the Garden State. It dropped close to a foot in many spots, with some northern areas getting up to 19 inches before the flakes stopped falling.

The Record reported that a man found unconscious and pulled from his snowbound car near Hackensack by public works employees Thursday morning died later at Hackensack University Medical Center.

The two-day event started with snow early Wednesday, then a nasty mix of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow by late afternoon.

But the precipitation changed back to all snow in most areas by late Wednesday night, dropping 1 to 2 inches per hour at times overnight.

That led to treacherous travel conditions for the Thursday morning commute. Schools canceled classes or opened late.

Buses and trains ran behind schedule. The state kept government offices closed until noon so road crews could have more time to clear the streets and highways around Trenton.

Some 1,900 plows and salt spreaders were out across the state on Thursday. Their work was made tougher early on by vehicles that became stuck on highway ramps, but conditions steadily improved as the sun came out and temperatures rose past freezing.

The storm also caused havoc at Newark Liberty International Airport, where a fleet of giant snowplows and snowblowers crisscrossed the runways and taxiways Thursday morning clearing snow into 15-foot-high mountains. Elsewhere, workers busily cleared snow off airplane wings and engine intakes.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, said about 400 flights had been canceled as of 8:30 a.m. Service was slowly resuming by about 11 a.m.

The airport monorail that serves the three terminals and outer parking areas operated on a limited basis throughout the morning, causing long waits for travelers.

Just getting to the airport was a chore for many.

Angela Kennedy works for the Archdiocese of Newark and was on her way to Detroit to attend a conference. Her day began at 4:30 a.m. and featured travel by car, train and bus to get to Newark Liberty.

Her Wednesday evening flight had been canceled and she was booked to leave Thursday around noon, then earlier Thursday morning. But by the time she got to the airport that flight had been canceled as well, leaving her to wait until Thursday evening.

"It is what it is; it's Mother Nature," Kennedy said. "You just have to roll with the punches. I don't see the weather as an inconvenience. It's a fact of life."

Portland, Ore., resident Mark Wilson, a marketing vice president for a company based in Princeton, hadn't seen this much snow since he lived in Denmark years ago.

"I had a rental car at the hotel and I had to dig it out, and it was up to my knees and beyond. We don't get that on the West Coast," Wilson said. "It's an inconvenience, but there's not much point in getting stressed about it. The airlines can't manage the weather."

Residents will get a brief respite over the next few days, as no major storms are expected - though forecasters say flurries and some light snow are possible Friday and Saturday.

But there's little relief in store from the cold.

"There's been a persistent weather pattern in recent weeks, and it looks like it'll stay around for at least a couple more weeks," state climatologist David Robinson said. "But that's a good thing, because a slower milding pattern reduces the chance for flooding that you could see if it warmed up quickly and everything melted at once."

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ONLINE:

For more information regarding winter safety information or to sign up for the NJOEM Twitter and Facebook pages, please log on to: www.ready.nj.gov. Those without internet access can dial 211.

Authorities are also urging people to stay connected to local and county OEM information outlets, and even the State Police Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/njsp) as this storm unfolds. Motorists are encouraged to check for current road conditions at the New Jersey Department of Transportation website: www.NJ511.info.


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