Mother Nature struck again.
Just days before the end of winter — and on St. Patrick’s Day — more than a half-foot of snow was dumped on some areas of South Jersey.
“It’s a little slower than normal, and the weather is a major factor,” said Gerry McGrath at the Cattle ’n Clover in Wildwood.
When the restaurant opened at 10 a.m., there were some die-hard celebrators waiting to get in, she said.
This was all while the Wildwoods reported as much as 10.5 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service, with the highest total in Wildwood Crest. Other parts of Cape May County saw between 7 and 10 inches.
In Atlantic County, Ventnor reported 8.1 inches while farther inland, the Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township reported 5.9 inches. Cumberland County saw totals ranging from just less than 7 inches to about 4 inches, while southern Ocean County — which was supposed to miss the brunt of the storm — saw totals as high as 7.5 inches in Manahawkin.
In Cape May County, “We are not used to this,” said Diane Wieland, director of tourism in the county.
Still, county engineer and head of Public Works Dale Foster said this storm was much easier to handle for several reasons.
“The ground, fortunately for us, was warm from Saturday’s lovely temperatures, so it made it a lot easier for us,” Foster said. “We were in better shape (with salt). Last time we were getting close to empty, in fact two of our three salt barns ran out of salt. But we had plenty of salt this time.”
The crews began salting in the evening Sunday and went to “snow plow mode” by midnight, Foster said.
“Now we are just pushing back the snow. The roads are pretty decent,” he said. “This was a much easier storm for us than two weeks ago.”
The previous snowstorm proved to be problematic for road crews since a layer of ice was below the freshly fallen snow, make it harder to clear the roads.
In Ocean City, Dave Smith, 42, of the 3700 block of Oxford Lane, said he shoveled from very little to 18 inches, depending on how it had drifted around his yard. Across the street, Smith’s neighbor, Joe Cairnes, 73, spent the morning leveling a 24-inch-high drift that had built up around his vehicle in his driveway.
In Atlantic County, Public Works crews began salting Sunday at about 11 p.m. and started plowing by 4 a.m., said county spokeswoman Linda Gilmore.
A blustery wind blew the heavy snow toward the ocean along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and about six inches had piled up by 5 a.m.
The heavy snow caused a number of minor accidents in the region, with about 11 accidents reported by State Police on the Atlantic City Expressway beginning at 6 a.m.
Speed restrictions of 35 m.p.h. were in place through much of the day on both the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
A handful of Spirit Airlines’ flights to and from Florida were delayed at Atlantic City International, according to the airport website. Meanwhile, NJ Transit reported no problems with its bus or rail operations in South Jersey.
In Cumberland County, work crews brined roads Friday and Saturday in anticipation of the storm, county Public Works Director Donald Olbrich said. Crews were called in about 1:30 a.m. Monday to salt and clear roads, he said.
Police in Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland reported no accidents or traffic problems related to the storm. Olbrich said he had heard of two overnight accidents, with both being minor and resulting in no injuries.
Schools were closed in Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland. Cumberland Regional High School was also closed, while Cumberland County College opened at 12:30 p.m.
While snow days are eating into school districts’ spring breaks, Bridgeton Superintendent of Schools Thomasina Jones was optimistic that Monday’s closure will be the last.
Jones told parents and staff in her automated school closure telephone call to “enjoy the last snow day.”
Stafford Township began preparations Sunday, asking residents to move cars from the roads so plowing and salting could be completed effectively.
With temperatures hovering around 25 degrees, the morning commute was difficult as crews cleared and salted roads. Crews worked to clear what was described as heavy, wet snow and as soon as a roadway or parking lot was clear, within 10 minutes it was snow-covered again.
Elsewhere in the region, the snow slowed down the start of St. Patrick’s Day, but many pubs — including Ri Ra Irish Pub in Atlantic City, McGettigan’s 19th Hole in Galloway and Dubliner’s Pub and Grill in Galloway — said customers showed up despite the weather.
“It’s a slow start to a crazy day,” said Penny Kelly at Dubliner Pub and Grill. The pub was already a quarter full at 11:30 a.m.
In the end, “March storms aren’t that rare,” said Frank Donato, emergency management coordinator for Ocean City. “We have a history of them. Just when you think you’re done, you get another one like this one.”
Staff writers Thomas Barlas, Cindy Nevitt, Donna Weaver and Donald Wittkowski contributed to this report.