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Millions still under blizzard warning in Northeast; about 8,800 U.S. flights canceled

Two men come to the rescue of a woman who got stuck in a pile of snow while crossing Broadway on March 14, 2017 in New York. Winter Storm Stella unleashed its fury on much of the northeastern United States on March 14 dropping snow and sleet across the region and leading to school closures and thousands of flight cancellations. Stella, the most powerful winter storm of the season, was forecast to dump up to two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in New York and whip the area with combined with winds of up to 60 miles per hour (95 kilometers per hour), causing treacherous whiteout conditions. But after daybreak the National Weather Service (NWS) revised down its predicted snow accumulation for the city of New York, saying that the storm had moved across the coast. (Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — New York City and Philadelphia have been spared the worst of a nor’easter, but the storm was walloping other parts of the region with heavy snow and high winds. Millions of people were still in the path of blizzard conditions.

The storm has brought chaos to travel and daily life, with about 8,800 U.S. flights canceled between Monday and Wednesday and thousands of schools closed. Connecticut banned highway travel for several hours Tuesday, and some major regional rail traffic was suspended. At least three weather-related deaths were reported.

A blizzard warning was in effect for parts of Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and most of New England. The warning affected nearly 5 million people by Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Winter storm warnings and watches have been hoisted over a region stretching from Ohio and West Virginia into Maine. Local and state authorities warned residents to be prepared and to avoid unnecessary travel as winds in some coastal areas could hit 50 mph to 60 mph, reducing visibility to zero.

More than 20 inches of snow have been reported in parts of Upstate New York, and similar amounts could drop in northeastern Pennsylvania and parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, as the storm moved north into New England, weather models showed.

Cross country skiers enjoy a stroll in Central Park in New York city on March 14, 2017.
Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain.
 (Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavier snow inland, coastal flooding

Upstate New York had the heaviest snow by early afternoon Tuesday, with more than 20 inches reported near East Jewett, southwest of Albany.

Commuter buses in Pennsylvania and New York canceled service in advance of the storm.

Dr. Marie Keith, who works in New York and lives in the Scranton area, boarded the last bus Monday night leaving for New York City.

“There may be sick kids I need to see in my office tomorrow, so I thought I should be there,” she told CNN affiliate WNEP-TV.

About 13 inches of snow had been reported in northern New Jersey’s Ringwood borough, the National Weather Service said.

Along the New Jersey coast, strong winds pushed ocean water into neighborhoods. Moderate coastal flooding was expected, the weather service said. A video posted by Chris Macaluso showed flooding in Atlantic City.

The storm was kicking up strong winds in central Delaware, where gusts of up to 65 mph were possible.

New England

Parts of western Massachusetts could receive 24 inches or more along with powerful winds. Coastal Massachusetts could feel wind gusts of up to 55 mph, and high storm surges are possible.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the city received about 6 to 8 inches by Tuesday afternoon.

“This isn’t what we expected. We expected up to 18 inches of snow,” Walsh told reporters.

A snow emergency had been declared in the city, meaning vehicles will be towed if they are parked on roads marked as snow emergency arteries.

Walsh said the storm was expected to continue with high winds, turning into sleet and rain into the night.

“We have less snow on the ground [than expected], but the conditions are as if we are getting 20 inches of snow. The snow is coming down sideways, so it’s still a dangerous storm,” he said.

Walsh said city public schools will remain closed on Wednesday, but city offices will reopen.

Nearly 68,000 customers in Massachusetts were without power as of 6:45 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to the state’s Emergency Management Agency.

State emergency management officials said winds of more than 70 mph were reported in several coastal communities, and conditions are expected to continue into the evening. Wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph were recorded over inland parts of the state.

In Connecticut, a statewide ban on highway travel that went into effect at 5 a.m. ended at about 5 p.m.

“Wherever you are at sunrise Tuesday morning, expect to remain there throughout the remainder of the storm and into (Tuesday) night,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said, adding there were exceptions for certain professionals such as first responders.

The Hartford area could get up to 17 inches of snow and sleet, the weather service warned. Minor to moderate coastal flooding in Connecticut is possible around high tide Tuesday afternoon, the weather service said.

In parts of Vermont, southern New Hampshire and southern Maine, more than 20 inches of snow were possible through Tuesday night.

NY, Philly: Sleet thwarts heavier snowfall

In New York and Philadelphia, blizzard warnings were canceled as more sleet or freezing rain fell than expected. Early Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia lifted its snow emergency declaration, which meant parking would be allowed on snow emergency routes.

The precipitation and wind still had its effects on travel: The New York area’s three major airports saw most of their flights canceled.

About 4 inches of snow had fallen in New York’s Central Park by 8 a.m. ET. Snow mixed with sleet or rain was expected Tuesday afternoon, with wind gusts as strong as 49 mph possible. Authorities warned of possible coastal flooding along parts of New York City and Long Island.

Train service was hard hit: Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston and between New York and Albany, New York.

But there were slow signs of recovery. New York’s Metro-North commuter train service, which was suspended after noon, and above-ground subway service were expected to be restored at 6 p.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The storm interrupted power to some 6,300 electrical customers on Long Island, Cuomo’s office said.

School districts in New York and Philadelphia were closed, along with many government offices.

Philadelphia could expect freezing rain, sleet and snow Tuesday afternoon; up to 4 inches of snow and sleet are possible into Wednesday.

Wind gusts as strong as 39 mph could blow across the city Tuesday.

The snow couldn’t stop the determined.

Pennsylvania State Police teamed up with the Pennsylvania National Guard and other officials to escort a 23-month-old child from Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono in East Stroudsburg to Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville for an emergency procedure, police said.

Gov. Tom Wolf said state transportation employees led the way with a plow train, CNN affiliate WPVI reported.

Flight cancellations and travel warnings

Airlines canceled more than 7,000 US flights scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Flightaware.com. Those were on top of about 1,658 flights canceled Monday.

Warnings to use caution came from public officials up and down the East Coast — including President Donald Trump.

“Everyone along the east coast be safe and listen to local officials as a major winter storm approaches,” Trump tweeted.

Federal agencies in the Washington area opened three hours late Tuesday; employees had the option of taking unscheduled leave or teleworking, according to the US Office of Personnel Management.

This storm system already hit the Midwest, claiming two lives in Wisconsin. The victims — both men — died in separate weather-related activities, the Milwaukee County medical examiner reported.

A 76-year-old man was operating a snow blower before he died; the second man, 64, was shoveling snow, investigator Jenni Penn said. Both were cardiac-related deaths, Penn said.

In Gilford, New Hampshire, a 16-year-old girl was killed early Tuesday in a weather-related accident, police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee told CNN. The victim is the daughter of a Gilford police dispatcher, according to authorities.

Bean Burpee said the town is experiencing white-out conditions.