NEW YORK—Cities up and down the East Coast now identify with the plot of the hit Disney movie Frozen, where a kingdom is stuck under an eternal winter. New York City, where mountains of hardened black snow rise above parking meters, has already set a record for snowfall in January and February, clocking in 48 inches by Feb. 18. The February snowfall in Central Park is the third highest in history so far, and five times the normal amount.
Other major cities on the East Coast also have had about twice as much snow as normal. Anchorage, Alaska, experiencing a heat wave, has had less snow than New York City this winter.
“This is really getting obnoxious,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been shoveling his walk in Brooklyn for each of the 14 “snow events” in the city this winter. De Blasio caused a furor by refusing to call off school, even when the city was under more than a foot of snow. But his decision to keep schools open is well in line with the city’s historical precedent: The city has called off school because of snow only 11 times since 1978. City officials diverted garbage trucks to spread salt and plow roads, leaving mountains of uncollected trash.
Officials estimate that the city is already $40 million over its snow removal budget; that budget bust is being repeated in municipalities along the East Coast. Homeless shelters have been packed for weeks; the Bowery Mission in New York has been hosting about 180 in its main shelter, well above its average of 128 in the heart of winter. At least one grocery store in New York had empty shelves after snowstorms in other states blocked deliveries.
On the East Coast, about two dozen people died in snow-related accidents from the February storms; in New York a private snowplow ran over one woman who was eight months pregnant. The mother died, but doctors were able to deliver her baby alive.
When the February storms pushed through the South, Atlanta shut down entirely, as officials tried to prevent the mayhem of the Jan. 28 storm that paralyzed the city and left many stranded on roads for hours. This time, roads stayed empty and officials were quicker in their response. The heavy snow resulted in widespread power outages in the Southeast, where power lines are typically above ground.
But as the skies kept pouring snow, Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, reassuring Americans that this winter will not last forever.