Winter storm snarls travel, gives some schools the day off

  • A man takes a photo of a snowman Friday in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BOSTON — A winter storm that had already blanketed parts of the South in snow moved into the Northeast on Friday, snarling air travel, crushing commutes and giving a one-day respite to school districts struggling to keep kids in the classroom as coronavirus cases surged.

Schools in Boston closed, and Providence, Rhode Island, public schools switched to distance learning, but New York City kept the nation’s largest public school system open.

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“Children need to be in school. We don’t have any more days to waste” after the many closures and remote-learning days of the pandemic, said New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat dealing with his first major storm after taking office Saturday.

But there was a sense of relief for some educators.

Michael Gow, a middle school social studies teacher in Medfield, Massachusetts, called Friday a “snowvid day” and acknowledged it gave parents and teachers a reprieve from the daily dilemma of whether to continue with in-person instruction as the pandemic rages.

“This is a well deserved break for all of the teachers, staff, and students dealing with the surge of omicron,” Gow tweeted.

In central Pennsylvania, Ericka Weathers, a Penn State University education professor, scrambled to finish a fellowship application by the end of the day while her two kids were home from school because of the snow.

“I’ve been trying to juggle,” she said as her 7-year-old sledded on the hill outside and her 4-year-old didn’t want to go out. “Every five minutes, someone’s asking me a question.”

By mid-afternoon, airlines had scrubbed more than 2,600 flights, with the largest numbers at airports in Boston and the New York City area, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Airlines have struggled with staffing shortages caused by an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

By the time the storm started to wind down Friday afternoon, and the sun broke through in some areas, some spots in New England had received a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow, including more than 13 inches (33 centimeters) inches in Danielson, Connecticut; 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) in Westwood, Massachusetts; and 12 inches (30 centimeters) Burrillville, Rhode Island, according to unofficial observations reported by the National Weather Service. Drivers were urged to stay off the roads.

Plow driver Michael D’Andrea got a firsthand look at the mess on the roads. He saw plenty of vehicles spin out.

“The first storm is always a bit more dangerous,” said D’Andrea, 34, of Norwood, Massachusetts. “No one has driven in this weather for like six months. People have to relearn how to drive in this. And it’s usually not a foot of snow the first one. This is almost a blizzard with how fast it came down. 2022 is off to a bang, but I suppose we were overdue.”

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