Frigid temps, school closings, light transit schedule, and power outages expected today

Updated: 5:39 a.m.

The extreme cold has a grip on the area in the aftermath of yesterday’s storm. Ice and snow are still on the streets throughout the region.  Extreme wind chill makes a return to normal very difficult and the region remains impacted.

SEPTA is operating on a Saturday schedule with hopes of operating at 75 percent capacity of a normal workday.  Bus and trolley routes are impacted the most. As of this morning, suspended SEPTA bus routes are back and running, but some routes have detours because of road conditions.

Schools throughout the region remain closed due to the snow and ice and brutally cold temperatures.

Many offices and businesses remain closed or will open later than normal.

Updated: 4:51 p.m.

Now that the worst of the so-called “bomb cyclone” has moved on, weather-watchers say Friday will bring little relief: Subzero wind chills are forecasted through midday Saturday.

Some school districts — including Philadelphia — that closed for today’s storm already have decided to close again Friday.

The storm bombarded the region today with blizzard conditions, especially in coastal communities, where things got so bad that the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management issued a disaster declaration. As much as a foot of snow fell on some areas, while winds caused deep drifts elsewhere.

Travel conditions turned treacherous, with temperatures falling into the teens and low visibility from blowing snow with gusts up to 50 mph, the National Weather Service reported.

Meteorologists said wind-chill levels could fall as low as 15 degrees below 0 into the weekend.

The storm claimed one life in the region: A woman commuting to work, who was a passenger in a car that slid downhill into the path of a Philly-bound train in Lower Moreland, Montgomery County. The accident happened at 10 a.m. on Red Lion Road.

Many travel restrictions enacted today will continue into Friday. SEPTA, for example, will be running on an “enhanced Saturday schedule” Friday. Worried that drifting snow and downed wires could delay trains and strand passengers, the agency is trying to limit the number of trains out on the rails. SEPTA will have rescue buses standing by in case of breakdowns and may add more trains to the schedule as needed.

Schools closed or delayed

Public and parochial schools closed in Philadelphia, where officials declared a snow emergency at midnight.

Many school districts throughout the region, including Council Rock, Pennsbury, New Hope-Solebury and Centennial in central Bucks County and Trenton Public Schools in New Jersey, also closed. Others opened late. All schools in Delaware were closed, including colleges.

On the roads

Delaware Gov. John Carney declared a Level 1 travel emergency for Sussex County, advising anyone on the roads to “exercise extra caution.’’ People were also encouraged not to drive “unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.”

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning in Sussex County through 7 p.m. today. A coastal flood advisory was in effect through the afternoon.

Throughout the region, motorists reported that visibility on many roads was down to nearly nothing, as the wind whipped snow around. Slippery conditions caused multiple spin-out accidents on the Atlantic City Expressway, where most drivers crept along far slower than the speed limit.

Driving is difficult because the road temperatures are low from several days of air temperatures in the teens or single digits, according to Joe Miketta of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey.

“It’s horrible,’’ Miketta said. “When you spin your tires it (usually) helps liquefy the snow but because the road temperature is so cold it freeze. You get ice layers” on your tires.

Miketta said some schools called the service to see whether they could open after a two-hour delay, but he advised against doing so. “They would be sending them out in the worst part of the storm,’’ he said.

The storm, though, was a godsend for snow-plowers.

Snow plow contractor Kelvin Clark said he looked out his apartment window in Center City around 2:30 a.m. and thought: “Pennies from heaven!”

With so many people holing up at home during the storm, Clark found his job a bit easier.

“Not many people walking around,” Clark said. “And I’m glad, because it makes the snow easier to take off the sidewalks. When they walk on it and pack it down, it’s hard to get it up.”

Philadelphia officials declared a snow emergency, meaning all parked cars must be moved off Snow Emergency routes for plowing. Cars left on Snow Emergency routes will be moved to other parking spots. If your car is moved, call 215-686-SNOW to find it.

The Parking Authority will offer discounted parking in Center City garages during the Snow Emergency to help lessen the amount of cars parking on the street. A 24-hour flat rate of $5 is in effect at AutoPark garages at Independence Mall (5th and Market); Jefferson (10th and Ludlow); the Gallery Mall (10th and Filbert); 8th and Filbert; Old City (2nd and Sansom); and the Philadelphia Family Court Garage (1503-11 Arch St.)

Government offices

In Delaware, Wilmington government offices and state government offices in all three Delaware counties closed today. Wilmington City Council canceled its meeting for tonight and rescheduled it for next Tuesday, Jan. 11.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state emergency in Cape May, Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth counties and ordered all state offices closed statewide.

In Philadelphia, government offices were open during usual business hours. That included the Philly courthouse, where all jurors were expected to report for duty. But then shortly after 10 a.m., authorities announced they’d be closing courts at noon, due to deteriorating weather conditions. All critical court services were expected to remain operational.

Public transit

More than 200 flights have been canceled at the Philadelphia International Airport due to the storm. Travelers are urged to check their flight status with their airline before heading to the airport, or call (800) PHL-Gate to check flight status.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Philadelphia-bound planes this morning for about 90 minutes due to the heavy snow and gusty winds buffeting the airport. The ground stop was lifted about 10:30 a.m., but authorities warned of residual delays.

Amtrak was running on a modified schedule on much of its Northeast Corridor routes. The agency advises passengers to check their train status before departing, allow extra time to get to the station and take care in stations and on platforms.

SEPTA transit service remained open today, operating on a regular weekday schedule. Check for weather detours and delays here or on Twitter.

All SEPTA bus routes are operating except Route 35 and 120. Detours are in effect on routes 14, 18, 27, 32, 58, 62, 94, 95, 97, 103, 107, G, H, XH and L. Bus travel details change frequently, depending on road conditions.

On Regional Rail, various routes reported weather delays.

On CCT/Paratransit, customers needing to cancel or ask about trips should call (215) 580-7720. In Delaware, DART bus service has been halted in Sussex County but remains open with delays in Kent and New Castle counties.

Ferry service between Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey, also will be closed today due to a buildup of ice on the Cape May side.

Utilities

PSE&G reported that 1,677 of its 2.2 million electric customers experienced power outages this morning. Click here to check outages.

Delmarva Power said they had just 232 customers without power in Sussex County, and another 366 in the dark in Worcester County, Maryland, just south of Delaware state line. To report outages, call (800) 898-8042.

In Ocean City, New Jersey, plumber Russ Band said the bitter cold has caused pipes to burst in many homes — and plumbing work is no easy feat in sub-freezing temperatures.

“It’s awfully windy. It doesn’t help our situation any,” Band said. “Cold being cold, wind amplifies it.”

Ocean City New Jersey Emergency Management Coordinator Frank Donato said the freeze is wreaking havoc on seasonal homes.

“Keep the heat bumped up,” he advised. “We’ve had a lot of homes freeze this week. The fire department has been out on multiple calls of water gushing out of residences.”

Help the homeless

The Code Blue warning from Philly’s Office of Homeless Services remains in effect. City outreach teams will patrol the streets in greater numbers to urge homeless individuals to come to nearby shelters. Anyone with concerns about someone who is homeless is urged to call 215-232-1984.

Pets

Citizens should contact the ACCT Philly hotline at (267) 385-3800 if they see a dog or other pet outside during extreme cold. It’s against city law to leave pets outside in extreme weather without shelter; offenders face fines of up to $500. Authorities also recommend wiping off a pet’s paws after a winter walk outside. Chemicals from ice-melting salts and substances can be toxic to pets who lick them off their paws.

Trash and recycling

Philadelphia suspended sanitation and recycling collections today. Crews are expected to resume collections Friday, but delays are likely.

What’s next

Temperatures will continue to drop over the next few days. The highs are not expected to escape the teens, with lows of about 2 degrees forecast for Saturday.

At 8:45 a.m., snow was falling across the region at a rate of nearly 1 inch per hour in coastal areas and a little less inland, said Joe Miketta, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. It is expected to stop by mid-afternoon, he said.

Philadelphia is still projected to get about 6 inches total, he said.

Other weather service snowfall projections: About 12 inches in coastal Sussex County, Delaware, and New Jersey; and 4 inches in New Castle County, Delaware. Check here for updates on projected snowfalls.

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