Philly region digs out of latest nor’easter

Updated: 12:30 a.m.

It seems as though we’ve made it to the other side of spring.

After a few days of snow, sleet, and icy rain that started Tuesday night and persisted into Wednesday evening, it’s time for the region to recover. And pray for sunshine.

Travel on Thursday has made a comeback—SEPTA is up and running on regular schedules, save for 13 bus routes still being detoured and the possibility for residual delays on the Regional Rail. The Norristown High Speed is running every 20 minutes.

On the roads, slush and some ice still cover roads, but PennDOT reinstated normal speed limits this morning after it reduced speed limits from New Jersey to Ohio yesterday to 45 mph.

In a press conference early on Thursday morning, GM Jeffrey Knueppel confirmed that all modes would be operational today, and running on or close to schedule, after workers were out last night and this morning shoveling parking lots, tracks and making sure trains, buses and trolleys were functional in the storm.

“We had a lot of practice,” Knueppel laughed.

But maybe the biggest setback was at Philadelphia International, where more than 700 flights were cancelled yesterday. All four runways are being used today and normal operations have resumed. There are currently 80 arrival and departure cancellations. That’s less than 10 percent of usual flight schedules, according to an airport spokesperson.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said there was one fatal auto collision and more than 7,000 power outages in the southern part of the state, where ice has covered power lines. Murphy said in a media conference call on Wednesday that a bus and vehicle collided on Interstate 78 in Hunterdon County, resulting in the death of one person.

Minor flooding on the coast is being reported today by the National Weather Service in areas like Ocean City.

Outages in Pennsylvania are less widespread. Thursday morning PECO is reporting more than 200 outages total. Last night, there were more than a dozen outages affecting several hundred customers in Philadelphia.

Businesses are opening back up on Thursday morning with delays. Philadelphia public schools and archdiocesan schools are opening with a two-hour delay.

The National Weather Service reported the storm dropped as much as 5 inches of snow on the city by 7 p.m. By then, it had already broken an 86-year-old snowfall record for March 21. Government offices and businesses across the Philadelphia region closed for the day, urging people to stay home.

Officials yesterday warned that even though after some roadways seemed clear in the evening thanks to relentless snowplowing, travel would still be dicey.

The Philadelphia Streets Department announced today that during the storm it had more than 400 pieces of equipment on streets for snow removal. Primary and secondary roads are clear as well, with the focus today being on more residential blocks. Trash and recycling have resumed this morning with Wednesday pickup today, and consequent pick-up days this week will be pushed back one extra day.

Snow emergencies in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Delaware meant that normal operations in the bustling metro area slowed to a crawl. Schools and colleges postponed classes.

But not everybody stayed home.

David Carpenter, who works at the Curtis Institute of Music, greeted the collective reaction to the snowstorm with shock.

“I worked today. It was unbelievable to me how many businesses were closed. Even Starbucks,” he said. “I mean, it’s the Northeast, obviously it’s going to snow.”

The nor’easter near Easter affected not only the roads but also mass transit, causing cancellations and delays in all three states.

SEPTA regional rail lines and subways mostly ran on time during the storm, but buses were a different story. Dozens of routes were suspended midafternoon, and commuters  reported delays on routes that were running normally.

NJ Transit suspended bus service across the state and cross-honored tickets on most of its rail and light-rail lines.

One mass transit rider who braved the elements was 31-year-old Miles Turner, who was waiting on a bus at 40th and Market streets in Philadelphia late afternoon Wednesday.

“You shouldn’t be trying to get around Philly right now,” Turner said, looking out at the snowy streets. “You should be trying to get to where you got to go and stay there for a while, because it’s shuttin’ it down.”

Still, Turner said city officials and residents overreacted to the storm. “It is what it is,” he said. “I was in Boston, and I was in West Virginia. Philly don’t really get real snow.”

The fourth winter storm in just under a month was an unexpected headache for commuters.

“It’s making me think maybe I shouldn’t be going into work at all,” Launa Hochstetler joked, looking at the sparsely populated platform around her at Suburban Station Wednesday morning.

With just light sleet to impede them Wednesday morning, many like Hochstetler found the morning commute calm and uneventful, even with SEPTA running a Saturday schedule.

But the storm had dropped several inches of snow on the region by the time commuters were leaving work and heading home.

The region’s outlying areas faced other problems.

Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches in Delaware endured wind, rain, beach erosion, and minor flooding from the Indian River Inlet. No major damage was reported, and the Coastal Highway south of Dewey Beach remained open.

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