A howling blizzard heaped snow on Boston but farther south it mostly spared New York City, which slowly blinked back to life Tuesday, canceling its travel ban and restarting its subway trains.
In New England, the storm that arrived Monday evening was a bitter, paralyzing blast. At least 2 feet (about half a meter) of snow was expected in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the top snowstorms of all time there.
In New York, forecasters apologized for their predictions of a possible historic storm, and politicians defended their near-total shutdown on travel. Some residents grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.
Forecasters originally warned the storm could bring up to 3 feet (about a meter) of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early Tuesday, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying Boston and the northeastern New England region would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected.
As of midmorning, the Boston area had more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow, while the far eastern tip of New York's suburban Long Island had more than 2 feet (about half a meter). Snowplow operators around New England struggled to keep up, and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals.
The National Weather Service said a 78 mph (125 kph) gust was reported on Nantucket, and a 72 mph (115 kph) one on Martha's Vineyard.
“It felt like sand hitting you in the face,” Bob Paglia said after walking his dog four times overnight in Whitman, a small town about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Boston.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his statewide ban on travel as “absolutely the right decision to make” in light of the dire forecast.
As the storm pushed into the Northeast on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters' dire predictions. More than 7,700 flights were canceled, and schools, businesses and government offices closed.
As dawn broke, New York City had an almost eerie feel to it. No airplanes in the sky and no trains running underground made for an unexpected quiet. A few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets.
But as the storm pushed northward, it tracked farther east than forecasters had been expecting, and conditions improved quickly in its wake. By midmorning Tuesday, New Jersey and New York City lifted driving bans, and subways and trains started rolling again, with a return to a full schedule expected Wednesday.
A National Weather Service forecaster in New Jersey apologized on Twitter for the off-target forecast.
“You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry,” Gary Szatkowski tweeted.
New York City's snowfall was still substantial: La Guardia International Airport recorded 11 inches (28 centimeters) of snow, and Central Park was blanketed with almost 8 inches (20 centimeters).
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who drew criticism last fall after suggesting meteorologists hadn't foreseen the severity of an epic snowstorm in Buffalo, said this time: “Weather forecasters do the best they can, and we respond based to the best information that we have.”