New York spared as Boston hit by blizzard

New Englanders hit by a blizzard packing knee-high snowfall and hurricane-force winds have begun digging themselves out. The storm was a bitter, paralysing blast to New England, with at least two feet of snow in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the top snowstorms of all time there.

Christian Urraca uses a snow blower to clear a path outside his house on Burncoat Street as his son, Anthony, 5, follows with a shovel in Worcester, Mass

Christian Urraca uses a snow blower to clear a path outside his house on Burncoat Street as his son, Anthony, five, follows with a shovel in Worcester, Mass Image by (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Christine Hochkeppel)

It began on Monday evening and continued for most of Tuesday. A blizzard warning for Boston ended early on Wednesday as the snow tapered off, but one remained in effect for the south coast, Cape Cod and nearby islands. The area also was dealing with bitter cold. The low in Boston on Wednesday is expected to be ten degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of minus five degrees Fahrenheit, and forecasters said it would not get above freezing for the next week or so.

John Slasell wades through waist-deep snow as he snow blows the sidewalk along Slater St. in Webster, Mass.

John Slasell wades through waist-deep snow as he snow blows the sidewalk along Slater St. in Webster, Mass. Image by (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Dan Gould)

In New York, forecasters apologised for their predictions of a possible historic storm, and politicians defended their near-total shutdown on travel. Some residents grumbled about the forecasts being overblown, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman. Forecasters had originally warned that the storm could bring up to three feet of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But on 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.

The Boston area had more than a foot of snow, while the far eastern tip of New York's suburban Long Island had more than two feet. Snow plough operators around New England struggled to keep up and Boston police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals.

John Magane works to shovel his car out in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

John Magane works to shovel his car out in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Image by (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The National Weather Service said a 78mph gust was reported on Nantucket, and a 72mph one on Martha's Vineyard. New Jersey governor Chris Christie defended his state-wide ban on travel as "absolutely the right decision to make" in light of the dire forecast. As the storm pushed into the north east on Monday, the region came to a near standstill, alarmed by forecasters' predictions. More than 7,700 flights were cancelled, and schools, businesses and government offices closed.

As dawn broke, New York City had an almost eerie feel. No planes 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 northwards, it tracked further east than forecasters had been expecting and conditions improved quickly in its wake. By mid-morning on 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 on Wednesday.

A National Weather Service forecaster in New Jersey apologised 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 eleven inches of snow and Central Park was blanketed with almost eight inches.

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