Saturday’s snow storm was the biggest December snow storm ever recorded in Philadelphia history, according to meteorologist Glen “Hurricane” Schwartz, and now Philadelphians are digging their way out of it.
"Only the Blizzard of '96 beat that, with 30.7 inches of snow," Schwartz said.
The record 23.2 inches of snow on the ground also makes it the second biggest snowstorm in all of Philadelphia history. But all of that snow has made a mess, and with a Christmas Day rainstorm coming, it's a recipe for flooding, says Schwartz.
The weather forced the Eagles into a later game against the 49ers today and with the snow-covered roads and icy conditions, SEPTA schedules are delayed Sunday and a special schedule for the Sports Express service has been announced for the 4:15 p.m. Eagles game.
Although pretty to look at and fun to sled in, the 30-hour storm left many stranded, forcing them to cut short their holiday shopping and travel plans. And all of the water in that snow may cause a major problem, as a major rainstorm is coming Christmas Day.
Philadelphia International Airport was shut down Saturday night but began to reopen early Sunday. Spokesman Phyllis Van Istendal
said operations would ramp up later in the day.
The last Saturday of shopping before Christmas, usually one of the busiest days of the year for retailers, was snowed out on most
of the East Coast by blizzard-like conditions that stretched from the Carolinas to New England.
Many retailers were open but crowds were sparse on a day stores count on for a successful season. Treacherous roads and near whiteout conditions kept many shoppers away from shopping malls and other stores, many of which were forced to close early due to the storm.
As the snow kept falling, sporting events from NFL games to harness races were rescheduled, including the Eagles-49ers game that was pushed to 4:15 p.m. from 1 p.m.
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Don Smolenski, the Eagles' senior vice president and chief financial officer, told Philly.com that the move was made to give the team, the city, and PennDot more time to clear snow from Lincoln Financial Field, as well as the parking lots and roads surrounding the stadium.
"We're encouraging fans to use public transportation," Smolenski said. "Given the volume of snow, there will be reduced parking spaces."
Blizzard warnings remained in effect Sunday for parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with gusts up to 60 mph. As much as 16
inches of snow was expected to cover parts of southern New England.
But the early arrival of wintry weather on a quiet Sunday morning could not have been better timing, according to some.
"Other than spoiling the Christmas shopping, from the emergency manager perspective it was the perfect timing,'' said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. "Even the cleanup today, we're not fighting the people who would be trying to get to work.''
To the South, others struggled with the aftermath.
On the cusp of the winter solstice, the storm dropped 16 inches of snow on Reagan National Airport outside Washington on Saturday -- the most ever recorded there for a single December day -- and gave southern New Jersey its highest single-storm snowfall totals in nearly four years.
Airports in the Northeast that were jammed up in the storm Saturday were working their way back to normal operations.
Al Wachlin, 70, lives in Philadelphia but grew up in Maine and was well prepared for the storm, with a truck and an attached plow.
With a scraper in one hand and a brush in another, he worked to clear off his truck.
"This part of it's great,'' said Wachlin, who has lived in the city since 1960. "It's the cleanup, the rutted streets where you go sliding into the intersection, that's the whole problem.''
In many places the problem was where to put the show. On south Philadelphia's narrow streets, residents shoveling sidewalks
resigned themselves to the snow eventually returning as traffic displaced it from the street.