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Snowstorm lashes US East Coast, blankets New York, Boston

/ 10:34 PM January 27, 2015

NEW YORK — New York City blinked back to life Tuesday morning, after getting blanketed by a massive snowstorm that disrupted life for tens of millions of people along the U.S. East Coast.

New York canceled its travel ban amid better-than-expected weather conditions, while further north Boston remained shut down as Massachusetts was pounded by snow and lashed by strong wind.

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Forecasters originally warned the storm could be historic, bringing up to 3 feet (about a meter) of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early 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.

As dawn broke, New York City had an almost eerie feel to it. No airplanes in the sky and no trains running underground made for an unexpected quiet. Light snow fell steadily early Tuesday in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets.

More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.

Sections of New York were forecast to see up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow.

As the storm system spun northward, conditions improved quickly. Travel bans were lifted before midmorning in New Jersey and New York. New York City buses, subways and trains were expected to restart on a limited basis later in the morning and a return to a full schedule was expected by Wednesday.

Total accumulation was expected to reach or exceed two feet (half a meter) in most of Massachusetts, potentially making it one of the worst snowstorms ever to hit the state. Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion, particularly on Cape Cod.

The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile (400-kilometer) swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.

On Monday, life abruptly stopped across the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews.

Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: “People have to make smart decisions from this point on.”

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New York City’s entire transit system was shut down Monday night.

In New Jersey, plows and salt spreaders remained at work on the roads Monday night in Ocean County, one of the coastal areas that was expected to be among the hardest hit. There was a coating of snow on the roads, but hardly any vehicles were traveling on them, as residents seemed content to stay indoors and monitor the storm in comfort.

Most businesses in the area had gone dark, including some convenience stores and gas stations.

On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange stayed open and said it would operate normally Tuesday as well.

Utility companies across the region put additional crews on standby to deal with anticipated power outages.

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