A 'historic' snowfall . . . and even more tomorrow

Suppressing the odd feeling that he's being watched, Presbyterian Historical Society superintendent Herb Beverly digs a path on the Society's grounds on Lombard Street near 4th.
Suppressing the odd feeling that he's being watched, Presbyterian Historical Society superintendent Herb Beverly digs a path on the Society's grounds on Lombard Street near 4th.
Posted: February 08, 2010

HAVING JUST dug out from 28.5 inches of Blizzard 2010, the second-largest snowstorm in the city's history, residents are bracing for another foot of snow that forecasters say could start falling about 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Today, students will have an extra day to play in the snow, as Philadelphia public and parochial schools are closed. Administrative and regional offices of the school district will open two hours late.

But flights, public transit and even trash and recycling pickup are expected to proceed on time.

Gov. Rendell declared a statewide snow emergency over the weekend, but the city lifted its snow emergency at noon yesterday. The largest snowfall in the city's history was 30.7 inches in January 1996.

Forecasters and city officials are warning motorists to be careful of "black ice" - roadways that look wet but are covered in ice.

Last night, the city's budget director, Steve Agostini, was forecasting a trip to City Council in April to pay for repeated snow removal in what's expected to be at least three blizzards in a one-year budget.

The 23.3-inch snowfall on Dec. 19 cost the city a cool $3.5 million, and Philadelphia International Airport, which has a separate source of revenue, about $3.3 million, for a total of $6.8 million.

Agostini said that he expects the weekend blizzard to match that cost, and possibly another $6.8 million for an expected two-day snowfall starting tomorrow that could reach 12 inches.

Snow-removal costs could reach a high of $20 million from the city and airport from the three storms, the budget director speculated. More than half the cost is picked up by taxpayers.

And Agostini said that he has a $6 million "placeholder" in the current budget for snow removal, after three years of little snow.

So, he's keeping his fingers crossed for the next six to eight weeks, in case Mother Nature presents more white stuff.

Because the airport has its own funding stream, taxpayers don't have to cough up the money to clear the 32 million square feet of runways, taxiways and aprons for planes to take off or land, or the roadway system, sidewalks or parking lots.

Mayor Nutter was outdoors yesterday shoveling out residents in Mayfair, where he thanked Philadelphians for not dumping snow in the streets and city employees for working around the clock to remove the snow.

The city is continuing to salt, plow and remove snow today. If cars were towed, residents can call 215-686-SNOW to locate them.

In an unusual twist to Sunday services, Mother Bethel AME Church, on 6th Street near Lombard, conducted its prayer worship at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. by conference call.

More than 300 worshipers, some as far away as California, listened to both services after receiving notices on Facebook and Twitter, and through e-mail.

Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler conducted an abbreviated service with scripture, solos, musical response and a sermon, and it was all recorded and is now available as a podcast on the Web site www.talkshoe.com; search for Mother Bethel.

Meanwhile, the city is asking residents to help keep corners cleared for snowplows and sewer drains cleared for melting snow.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers asked that residents clear off hydrants in case of fire emergencies.

South Jersey was hard-hit, with 50 mph winds and widespread power outages as the Nor'easter brought 2 feet of snow. Utility poles snapped along roads and power lines drooped under the weight of the snow.

The Cape May Zoo had no power overnight Saturday, but brought reptiles and small animals into the aviary where generators were brought in. Power was restored yesterday and no animals were harmed.

Surprisingly, the city utilities were not hard-hit, as in other storms. A PGW spokesman said that there were no emergencies, as its gas lines are underground.

Peco Energy spokesman Michael Wood said that fewer than 10,000 outages were reported systemwide, with the most in Delaware County, from Media to Middletown, and pockets of outages caused by downed trees.

"There were very few outages in Philadelphia," he said, "and only about 1,000 systemwide at a time.

"We never had to activate a full emergency, and we could help Atlantic Electric in South Jersey," he said. About 90,000 customers were without power yesterday, he said.

At the airport, numerous airlines canceled flights Friday and Saturday, but two major runways and two secondary runways were opened yesterday, said Victoria Lupica, an airport spokeswoman. Two flights arrived and two took off on Saturday, she said.

Crews from the 450-member airport work force toiled around the clock, using 200 pieces of snow-removal equipment to keep runways, roadways and sidewalks cleared, she added. She said that she expects the crews to do the same tomorrow, as well as to treat the runways with chemicals before the storm hits.

She urged anyone traveling tomorrow to call airlines first.

The National Weather Service called the weekend storm "historic" and reported a foot of snow in parts of Ohio and 2 feet or more in Washington, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia got closer to 3 feet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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