Nor’easter update: Philly region could get up to 8 more inches of snow overnight

A few inches of snow coat the ground in Philadelphia

A few inches of snow coat the ground in Philadelphia on Feb. 1, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated: 5:05 p.m.

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A major winter storm continues to move its way across the Delaware Valley Monday, with strong winds, snow and ice, and coastal flooding in the forecast through Tuesday.

The storm could dump up to eight more inches of snow across the region overnight, already prompting the cancelation of schools and COVID-19 vaccinations at New Jersey’s six mega-sites for a second day.

Philadelphia officials are urging residents to stay home as the second round of the storm makes the city increasingly impassible.

“If you must venture outside, we urge caution to all motorists and pedestrians,” said Philadelphia Managing Director Tumar Alexander on a press call Monday morning. “Heavy snow with strong winds is expected to continue throughout the rest of the day.”

The Streets Department has 50,000 tons of salt to lay down on city roads, said Commissioner Carlton Williams. All city crews and private contractors have been diverted to snow removal. Williams said he expects today’s storm to be “a bit more challenging” than Sunday’s snowfall, as a greater accumulation is expected, and the snow will be heavier and wetter.

Philadelphians start to shovel their sidewalks
Philadelphians start to shovel outside early Monday morning. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Snow emergency routes, primary, and secondary roads will be plowed first, followed by residential streets, Williams said.

“We are deeply concerned about not only accumulating snow, but black ice accumulating along roadways,” Williams said. “We want to remind the public to exercise extreme caution, and be patient as we fight this storm.”

Williams also reminded tenants of their obligation to salt and shovel a path of at least three feet on the sidewalk in front of their homes, and asked that people refrain from throwing that snow back into already plowed streets.

The pandemic had added another layer of complication for city workers battling the winter weather. Snow plow vehicles have smaller crews than normal, and some emergency response staff are coordinating virtually.

The warnings were dire from officials in New Jersey, where the forecast ranged from high winds and possible coastal flooding in the south to as much as two feet of snow in the northern part of the state.

Sledders flock to Stokes Hill in Moorestown, N.J.
Sledders flock to Stokes Hill in Moorestown, N.J., on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“If you’re out right now and you don’t need to be out, safely find your way home, lock the door, sit on the couch, and stay home until further notice,” Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded during a press conference Monday morning. “This is a huge storm.”

New Jersey remained under a state of emergency, with state offices closed. Almost all NJ Transit service had been suspended, and there were commercial vehicle restrictions on many interstate highways.

“We had jack-knifed tractor-trailer after jack-knifed tractor-trailer,” said New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan of the perilous road conditions Monday morning. “That’s why those travel restrictions are put in place, because it’s impossible to do snow removal operations when a tractor-trailer is sideways or upside-down across our interstates.”

By mid-morning, state troopers had responded to 340 car crashes and nearly 295 calls for “motorist aid.”

Drivers travel down I-95 in Philly
The roads were clear Monday morning, but the region is bracing for heavier snow to come. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon that the state had seen relatively few traffic incidents on its roadways overnight, but they were preparing for more issues this afternoon and evening.

Drivers in Northeastern Pennsylvania will likely be hit with “blizzard-like conditions” in the coming hours, Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration Melissa Batula said.

“Responding to the storm has truly been an all-hands-on-deck type situation,” Batula said. “If you can avoid travel, do so.”

Interstates in the Philadelphia region were in fairly good shape as of Monday afternoon, Batula said.

Still, officials weren’t all doom and gloom. Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figeroa encouraged Philly kids and families to get out and enjoy the weather, if they can do so safely.

“A little snowball fight never hurt anybody,” she said.

Jones pounces a ball at Rittenhouse Square.
Jones pounces a ball at Rittenhouse Square. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As the storm makes its way across the Delaware Valley, here’s what you need to know:

The latest forecast

Much of the Philly region saw several inches of snow from the first round of the storm on Sunday, but heavier snow is hitting the area Monday afternoon and expected to last into the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

“A band of moderate to heavy snow has developed pretty much right over the city,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Staarmann said late Monday afternoon.

The NWS expects the Philadelphia region to get another four to eight inches of snow overnight.

A light dusting of snow will likely continue through tomorrow.

Alerts, emergency orders

Much of southeast Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware will remain under a Winter Storm Warning until 4 p.m. Tuesday, per the National Weather Service. Travel could be very difficult to impossible due to hazardous conditions.

A snow emergency is in effect for the City of Philadelphia. All parked vehicles must be moved off snow emergency routes for plowing. A Code Blue also remains in effect.

New Jersey will remain under a state of emergency through Tuesday.

As of Monday morning, about 70 people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia have been placed into shelter, according to Liz Hersh, director of the city’s Office of Homeless Services,

“These snowy, icy conditions do present a life-threatening situation,” Hersh said. “We want to get everybody in who we possibly can.”

The city has deployed extra outreach teams, and Hersh urged people seeking shelter to call the city’s homeless outreach hotline: 215-232-1984.

There were several hundred power outages in New Jersey — a number that Board of Public Utilities president Joe Fiordaliso said might be expected even on a “blue sky day” — but officials warned that number could increase later Monday and into Tuesday when the snow continues and the wind picks up.

Schools

All School District of Philadelphia buildings will be closed Tuesday, though classes will still take place virtually in the morning. Students will be given the afternoon for “independent learning.”

All parochial schools in Philadelphia will be on a virtual Flexible Day of Instruction Tuesday. Parochial schools in the suburban collar counties will follow the lead of their local public school districts, the archdiocese said.

Roads, transportation

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf late Sunday urged residents to avoid travel ahead of worsening weather conditions. Tier 1-4 restrictions, which mostly affect commercial vehicles, are in place on several interstates.

SEPTA activated its emergency command protocol Sunday evening to handle the storm, said Assistant General Manager for Operations Scott Sauer. 

As of late Monday afternoon, about 30 bus routes were being detoured.

Normal service has resumed on the Market-Frankford Line, which had been operating shuttle buses between the 5th Street and 30th Street Station due to police activity. Otherwise, there are only a few bus route detours and delays on regional rail lines.

About 100 flights coming in and out of Philadelphia’s airport had already been canceled by 11 a.m Monday, according to Chief Operating Officer Keith Brune.

The airport has over 400 staff standing by for snow removal, but Brune urged people planning on taking a flight out or picking someone up Monday to check the flight’s status before heading out.

PATCO is running on a snow schedule. All NJ Transit service is temporarily suspended, with the exception of the Atlantic City Rail Line, which will operate on a regular weekday schedule.

Delaware’s main roads are mostly wet, with some slushy shoulders and turn lanes, as well as on some secondary roads, but for the most part, there are no major issues.

“We’re waiting to see what develops this afternoon. We could see some more accumulating snow. We could see next to nothing,” said Delaware Department of Transportation spokesman C.R. McLeod. “We’ve got crews down for a rest period now, and they plan to staff back up around midday and just be ready to roll, whatever comes our way.”

DART Services in the state are operating with minor delays. Bus riders can check DartFirstState.com for any service disruptions or updates, or download the free DART Transit app for real-time bus information. DART riders can also subscribe to Rider Alerts and DART news at Delaware Notification Service.

COVID testing, vaccine operations

New Jersey’s six vaccine “mega-sites” will remain closed Tuesday due to the winter storm, along with all state offices.

Individual health care providers will reach out to people with appointments scheduled for Tuesday to reschedule, according to a press release from Gov. Murphy’s office:

  • Atlantic (AtlantiCare) – Rescheduled to Friday
  • Bergen (Hackensack Meridian Health) – Rescheduled during extended hours throughout the week
  • Burlington (Virtua) – Rescheduled during extended hours throughout the week
  • Gloucester (County Health) – Rescheduled to Wednesday
  • Middlesex (RWJBarnabas) – Rescheduled to Friday
  • Morris (Atlantic Health) – Rescheduled to Thursday

The state’s Vaccination Call Center is open for people who want to pre-register and to answer questions, but it is not currently scheduling appointments until after the storm is over. The number for the call center is 855-568-0545.

WHYY’s Robby Brod and Cris Barrish contributed reporting.

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