NEW YORK — Brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures followed the mammoth blizzard that paralyzed Washington and set a single-day snowfall record in New York City, enabling millions to dig out Sunday and enjoy the winter.
The timing could not have been better: Most people stayed home as the heaviest snow fell Friday evening and all day Saturday, enabling crews to clear roads and rails, then awoke Sunday to see grimy cities blanketed in lovely but unfamiliar terrains.
It was just right for a huge snowball fight in Baltimore, where more than 600 people responded to organizer Aaron Brazell’s invite on Facebook.
“I knew people would be cooped up in their houses and wanting to come outside,” said Brazell, who was beaned by multiple blasts of perfectly soft but firm snow.
But treacherous conditions remained: Waist-high piles of plowed snow blocked Manhattan bus stops, forcing riders to risk waiting on streets, inches from traffic. Judy Tenenbaum refused, and walked a dozen blocks to reach a stop where at least some snow was cleared.
“I decided, I don’t want to die,” she said, boarding a bus to the YMCA.
At least 28 deaths were blamed on the weather, first in car crashes, and then while shoveling snow or breathing carbon monoxide.
The storm dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England. The heaviest official report was 42 inches, in Glengary, West Virginia, but huge accumulations elsewhere stranded tens of thousands of travelers and forced countless others to change plans.
Broadway shows reopened on the Great White Way Sunday after going dark at the last minute during the snowstorm, but Bruce Springsteen called off his Sunday concert at Madison Square Garden. Museums remained closed in Washington, and the House of Representatives postponed votes until February, citing the storm’s impact on travel.
Flying remained particularly messy after nearly 12,000 weekend flights were canceled. Airports resumed very limited service in New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which said it got an entire winter’s snow in two days. Washington-area airports remained closed Sunday after the punishing blizzard.
Major airlines also canceled hundreds of flights for Monday. Along with clearing snow and ice from facilities and equipment, the operators of airlines, train and transit systems had to figure out how to get snowbound employees to work.
Amtrak operated a reduced number of trains on all its routes, serving many people who couldn’t get around otherwise, spokesman Marc Magliari said. But bus and rail service was expected to be limited around the region into Monday, making for a complicated commute.
As a sign of how much digging out remains to be done around the nation’s capital, public schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, which recorded some of the highest snow totals, including 38.5 inches in North Potomac.
Still, with 30 hours or more to restore power and clear streets after the last flakes fell, millions were expected to slog back to work.
The storm dropped 26.8 inches in Central Park, the second-most recorded since 1869 and just short of 26.9 inches set in February 2006. But the 26.6 inches that fell on Saturday was the city’s record for a single day.
It appears to be Baltimore’s biggest single snowstorm, with a preliminary total of 29.2 inches at the city’s airport topping its previous record of 26.8 inches during the “Presidents Day Storm” of 2003.
Washington’s records were less clear. The official 3-day total of 17.8 inches measured at Reagan National Airport was impossibly short of accumulations recorded elsewhere in the city. An official total of 22.4 inches landed at the National Zoo, but since some of that fell Friday night, it might not have beat the city’s single-day record of 21 inches, set on Jan. 28, 1922.
The Zoo was making hearts sing in other ways — even though the grounds remained closed through Monday, an online video of its giant panda Tian Tian making snow angels got more than 48 million views.
Joining the fun, Jeffrey Perez got more than half a million views of his own online video, after climbing into a panda suit and rolling around in the snow outside his home in Millersville, Maryland.
Watching her young daughters frolic in the snow in Toms River, N.J., Mary Desmond joked that they had made it through the storm “without killing any one.” ”With little ones the cabin fever is really strong,” she laughed.
Coastal cities saw flooding but no significant damage. Many deaths had more to do with human nature than Mother Nature.
In Passaic, N.J., on Sunday, a mother and year-old son watching their family shovel snow from the apparent safety of their car died because snow blocked the tailpipe; her 3-year-old daughter was in critical condition, The Record reported.
David Perrotto, 56, met a similar fate in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, after a snowplow buried him inside the car he was trying to dig out Saturday night. An elderly couple in Greenville, South Carolina, who lost power were poisoned by a gas-powered generator in their garage.
And in North Carolina, an intoxicated man whose car spun out and got stuck in the snow shot and killed a man who tried to help him, Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said.
The storm delivered bursts of thunder and lightning and winds that reached a hurricane-force 75 mph at Dewey Beach, Delaware, and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, the National Weather Service said. From Virginia to New York, sustained winds topped 30 mph and gusted to around 50 mph.
Roofs collapsed on a church in Pennsylvania and a historic theater in Virginia, causing no injuries. The roof also fell in on a barn outside Frederick, Maryland, which got 33.5 inches of snow, killing cows a farmer had herded inside.
“It kills me because I killed them by putting them in the barn,” Douglas Fink said. “I was trying to protect them, but they probably would have been better off just standing outside.”