The massive storm that slammed the mid-Atlantic on Saturday dumped at least a foot of snow in parts of southern New Jersey, triggering several car accidents that left drivers stranded, causing flooding along the coast and cutting power to hundreds of homes and businesses.
As much as 24 inches may have fallen in parts of the region as the storm is expected to move out early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Such a total would make it the biggest winter storm in the state since February 2006 — although technically, winter does not start until Monday.
Snowfall totals from the National Weather Service as of 11 p.m. show county highs of 17.5 inches in Vineland, Cumberland County; 17.5 inches in the Bayville section of Berkeley Township, Ocean County; 18 inches in Galloway Township, Atlantic County; and 14 inches in the Eldora section of Dennis Township.
The National Weather Service also reported several instances of “thundersnow” in the region — lightning strikes during a snowstorm — mostly in the early afternoon.
Residents who decided to dig out Saturday and drive faced difficult road conditions. Speed limits were reduced on major highways, including the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway.
But police departments still were inundated with weather-related calls. State Police reported about 20 accidents by midday but said all were minor and involved only single vehicles spinning out.
In a common scene, at least five cars on Route 55 in Cumberland County were planted firmly in the median between Millville and the last exit for Vineland. State Police set up flares along the side of the road as drivers waited for tow trucks.
The Atlantic County Emergency Operations Center reported no known road closings in the county as of 4:30 p.m., and no reports of stranded vehicles. Public works crews were continuing to plow roadways.
In Atlantic City, police Capt. Bill McKnight said there had been about six to eight crashes in the city, all minor, including two instances of NJ Transit buses sliding into poles.
Atlantic City’s roads were “passable, but icy,” city Emergency Management Director Tom Foley said, although further beach erosion was apparent.
“The waves are very large, and we’re very concerned about the lifeguard headquarters at States Avenue and Boardwalk, which is up on pilings in the sand,” Foley said. “The whole area’s being torn apart by Mother Nature.”
Other areas suffered coastal flooding as well. Three bridges in Cape May County were temporarily closed during the morning high tide: the George Redding Bridge into Wildwood; Townsend’s Inlet Bridge between Avalon and Sea Isle City; and the Beesleys Point Bridge between Upper Township and Somers Point. Tolls were also suspended on all Ocean Drive bridges until noon Sunday.
The Beesleys Point Bridge later became stuck in the closed position by late afternoon, according to Cape May County spokeswoman Lenora Boninfante. The bridge would not be opened until further notice, she said Saturday evening, and would remain closed to all boaters until conditions let up enough to allow it to be staffed.
The county’s barrier island towns reported getting mostly rain while the snow accumulated inland.
The Cape May–Lewes Ferry canceled two southbound departures from North Cape May and two northbound departures from Lewes, Del. The ferry expected to resume full operations Sunday, but riders were asked to call the reservation office at 800-643-3779 to make sure.
NJ Transit officials said an Atlantic City line train collided with one of their buses Saturday evening after the bus got stuck on snow-covered train tracks.
NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said there were no injuries, and that the bus was evacuated before the train hit it in Pennsauken at about 7:30 p.m. There were 38 passengers on the train, and it wasn’t clear how many had been on the bus.
At 9 p.m., NJ Transit announced it was suspending bus service for the night. Buses were to stop after their current runs were completed.
Meanwhile, fishing boats stayed tied up for the most part. The New Jersey Marine Police and U.S. Coast Guard had no rescue operations during the morning hours.
In other areas, some people couldn’t get out at all.
Bill Norton, who lives in the Oaks of Weymouth age-restricted development in Weymouth Township, Atlantic County, said that not a single plow could be found all day.
“We’ve been waiting all day, and we haven’t seen anything,” Norton said at 6:30 p.m. “Everyone in here is 55 and up. It’s almost impossible to dig ourselves out.”
The development, and not the township, is responsible for plowing, he said.
But Norton was fortunate in one respect — he still had electricity. There were outages reported throughout southern New Jersey, with more than 450 Atlantic City Electric customers without power through Saturday night.
Utility spokeswoman Kennya Seeney said crews were moving “as safely as possible” to restore power, although it was not uncommon for repeat outages in the same neighborhood. Atlantic, Cumberland and Ocean counties had among the highest concentration of outages.
For more information, go to http://www.atlanticcityelectric.com/home/emergency/maps/stormcenter.
Some places turned off the lights on purpose. The Walk shopping outlets in Atlantic City shut down for the entire day because of the weather — a move that would otherwise be unheard of since this is the last weekend before Christmas. The shops will open Sunday at 9 a.m. and offer free valet service and gift wrapping from noon to 6 p.m. to make it up to customers, general manager Kim Butler said.
Stores at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland, meanwhile, began closing as early as 6 p.m. because of the storm.
At the Shore Mall, in Egg Harbor Township, foot traffic was extremely light. Many shoppers were learning a lesson: procrastinate about buying Christmas gifts, and you might have no choice but to head out the mall in the midst of a nasty snowstorm.
But for Matt Manyak and Krystle Morrill, of Cape May, the mall was actually a back-up plan.
“We were planning on going snowboarding in the Poconos,” Morrill said. “We decided that it wouldn’t be that safe to drive. We still drove an hour, but we didn’t drive three hours.”
Sandra Samuel, of Pleasantville, was at the mall to do some last-minute shopping with her grandson.
“This is my weather,” Samuel said. “I like driving around in that weather. For me, at 62, it brings out the kid in you.”
Her grandson, 10-year-old David Samuel, was also a snow fan.
“You get to play in it, you get to have snowball fights,” David said. “We just had one today.”
Other places that didn’t shut down were the casinos in Atlantic City. Properties owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. were providing indoor parking in garages for their employees, some of whom were staying overnight to work more than one shift, spokeswoman Alyce Parker said.
Scott Piotroski made the trip from Harrisburg, Pa., to Atlantic City with his wife to watch Saturday's Rob Thomas concert at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Things were going great — spa treatment, pastrami sandwich — and then Piotroski received an e-mail alerting him that the concert was cancelled.
“I don’t know what to say right now,” Piotroski said. “Really? That’s too bad.”
The storm even affected Santa’s schedule — at least at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, where this morning’s “Brunch with Santa” has been cancelled.
Sunday is expected to be cloudy, with a high near 39 degrees and low of about 28 degrees.
Staff writers Richard Degener, Dan Good and Edward Van Embden and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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