New York — A storm that was blamed for at least 11 deaths in the eastern half of the country moved out to sea Friday, but the icy winds and record-low temperatures left in its wake were prolonging the misery of cities digging out from snowdrifts nearly 2 feet deep.
“Mother Nature has moved on somewhat,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, where at least three people died after the storm blew in Thursday night. “That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet in terms of dangerous weather.”
As Cuomo spoke, the National Weather Service warned that the wind chill factor in some areas of the Northeast could make it feel as cold as 25 to 30 degrees below zero.
“The wind chill will be cold enough to cause frostbite in about 15 minutes or less,” the weather service said in warnings that were in effect at least through Saturday morning. Homeless shelters expanded services to allow people to remain inside all day, instead of having to leave until evening; schools up and down the East Coast were closed; and thousands of flights were delayed or canceled.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, two of the four runways were operating by evening after zero visibility and high winds forced the suspension of all incoming and outgoing flights earlier. La Guardia and Newark Liberty airports remained open through the storm but with heavy delays.
Flightaware.com reported at least 2,648 cancellations and 5,181 delays of flights within, into or out of the country Friday. Philadelphia International and Newark Liberty were the worst affected.
Snowfall accumulations varied across the Northeast. New York’s Central Park reported 6.4 inches, while more than 11 inches fell in parts of Bronx and Queens. In Massachusetts north of Boston, Boxford received 23.8 inches and Topsfield got 23.5 inches.
The weather was blamed for at least 11 deaths in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky.
In New York, where at least three people died, Cuomo said the outcome could have been far worse if major roads had not been ordered closed from midnight Thursday until Friday morning. He also credited local officials across the state for closing schools and advising people to stay off the roads.
“I say kudos all around,” said Cuomo, noting that during a snowstorm last winter, hundreds of cars were abandoned on snowbound highways which remained open to traffic. “We had far fewer people stranded on roads than we experienced in the past. Closing roads allowed us to stay ahead of the snow and have plows operating all night long so we were in better shape for the morning commute.”
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was sworn into office Wednesday, said he had made good on his pledge to distribute snowplows equally among all five boroughs. By Friday afternoon, De Blasio said all of the city’s main arteries had been plowed.
Just as well, considering the forecast, which called for an Arctic air mass to move into the upper Midwest over the weekend and then make its way east.