Winter storm hits Northeast, causing difficult driving, closed schools and canceled flights


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A quick-moving snowstorm hit the Northeast on Tuesday canceling and delaying flights, making roads slippery and prompting many school districts to cancel classes or switch to remote learning —- or at least try to switch.

In New York City, the online learning system that serves the nation’s largest school district experienced technical problems first thing in the morning, preventing many of the 915,000 students from logging in.

More than 1,000 flights were canceled Tuesday morning, mostly at the airports in the New York City area and in Boston. Accidents were reported across the region and several states banned tandem and empty tractor-trailers from highways.

Some areas in Pennsylvania and Connecticut were hit with 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow, while other parts saw smaller accumulations than anticipated, the National Weather Service said. The Massachusetts coast saw high wind gusts, the agency said.

“It’s been a quiet winter, so it’s kind of welcoming,” Ricky Smith said as he made his way to a construction job in New York City. “I just hope nobody gets hurt.”

The city’s decision to push ahead with remote learning instead of declaring a snow day drew criticism from many parents and students, and the problems with the online system exacerbated the discontent. School officials said they were working with IBM to fix the issue, which they said involved authentication services.

Chong Bretillon, a parent in Queens, said she received repeated errors as she tried to gain entry to a Zoom room for her elementary school student, while messaging with dozens of other parents who were encountering the same problems.

“I just spent almost an hour trying to log in and log out,” Bretillon said. “Everyone’s frustrated.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision to go remote in the schools, saying it was necessary because of learning losses during the coronavirus pandemic. Many parents agreed.

“I know people around the country get really frustrated with the idea of these remote days and not just letting the kids have a day,” said Gina Cirrito, a parent of three boys in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “But I don’t think the teachers are asking above and beyond and to be honest, they’re so far behind. If there’s a way to keep their brains a little engaged, I’m all for it.”

School officials blamed the troubles on IBM, with Schools Chancellor David Banks saying the company “was not ready for primetime.”

IBM said in a statement early Tuesday afternoon that it “has been working closely with New York City schools to address this situation as quickly as possible. The issues have been largely resolved, and we regret the inconvenience to students and parents across the city.” The company did not immediately respond to questions about what specifically happened and why.

Throughout the region, officials urged people to take precautions including staying off the roads.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont ordered all executive branch office buildings closed to the public for the day, and all state courts were closed.

Susan Smith was spending the day with her three children, ages 14, 11 and 8, at her home in Columbia, Connecticut, because schools were closed. She said she likes traditional snow days off, but would also like to see remote learning on some bad weather days.

“But I still remember being a kid and really looking forward to snow days, so I don’t want to completely wipe that off the map with remote learning,” Smith said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation temporarily reduced the speed limit on several interstates to 45 mph (72 kph) in the east-central region of the state because of the storm.

“Simply put, conditions are extremely poor,” The Doylestown Township Police Department posted. “Most roads are snow covered and slick. Please stay home unless absolutely necessary.”

Ahead of the storm, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey told all non-essential Executive Branch employees to not report to work Tuesday. Boston schools were closed and a parking ban was in effect until 4 p.m. Similar closures and bans were put in place in other cities and towns. Emergency officials had equipment in place to help keep roads clear.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the city’s homeless shelters would remain open.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee signed an executive order shuttering state government offices Tuesday and banning tractor-trailer travel on all interstates and state roads beginning at midnight. McKee said he issued the tractor-trailer ban in coordination with Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

Airports in the region asked travelers to check with their airlines in case of cancellations and delays.

Power companies said they were ready to respond to possible outages that could occur because of trees and branches falling onto electricity lines. There were more than 145,000 outages reported Tuesday morning in Pennsylvania, but few outages in New York and New England, according to the tracking site

“The hazardous conditions can also make travel challenging for our crews, so we’re staging extra staff and equipment across the state to ensure we’re ready to respond as quickly as possible,” said Steve Sullivan, Eversource’s president of Connecticut electric operations.

At a news conference, New York City officials said that despite the snow predictions, they had no plans to relocate people from several large, heated tent shelter complexes built for thousands of homeless migrants.

In the South, flood watches covered much of Alabama and parts of central Georgia on Monday. Up to 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain was expected in parts of Georgia and Alabama, the National Weather Service warned.


Associated Press writers Jake Offenhartz and Philip Marcelo in New York, Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut, Steve LeBlanc in Boston; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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