TODAY   |  December 27, 2010

Monster blizzard pounds the East Coast

From the Carolinas to Maine, a massive winter snowstorm has grounded flights, closed highways and forced five major cities to declare states of emergency. TODAY covers the blizzard of 2010.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and welcome to "today" on a baby it's cold outside monday morning. i'm ann curry .

>> and i'm lester holt . it's not a case that meredith and matt couldn't come in because of the snow, although i like that version.

>> we're actually standing on a pile of snow that's about to be plowed. did you have trouble getting in this morning?

>> i was only about a mile away. i was waiting for a ride that couldn't get through. they have got mounds all over midtown manhattan . you get in okay?

>> got in okay. got in behind a truck. thank goodness the driver had a shovel. we're not sure how many inches from fallen in boston , but we know they're getting hit. at least 18 inches has fallen here in manhattan. there was more than seven inches of snow in raleigh , north carolina . that town had its first white christmas in history.

>> we're getting a little break right now, but there are huge drifts up and down the east coast because of the wind, that's causing big problems at the airports. lots and lots of flights have been canceled. many of the airports are closed right now, they say call the airline or check online.

>> all three major metropolitan airports here in new york city are closed at least until noon. we have got this business covered all up and down the east coast . we begin this morning with jeff rossen who's standing by, i think just a few blocks from us this morning. hey, jeff, good morning.

>> reporter: getting out of the way of a tractor trailer . you never actually know where these trucks are actually going to slide. on some of the main avenues here in new york city , we're told actual buss are stuck in snow banks. this city is usually pretty amazing about clearing snow, but take a look at it. it looks like a plow hasn't even been by even though they have been working through the night. those snow drifts you have been mentioning, look at these police cars buried up to their taillights. six states have already declared states of emergency . overnight no mercy, the snow kept falling and the winds kept howling, nearly 60 miles an hour. sending cars spinning.

>> it's horrible. i'm stuck here. this is really a blizzard.

>> reporter: whiteout conditions even thunderer snow in the heart of manhattan caught on video. and visibility really dropped, that's times square down there, and that's the atlantic city boardwalk, can you see it? even more dangerous, drivers could barely see the road right in front of them.

>> don't come out unless it's absolutely necessary.

>> it's ridiculous out here. i don't think anybody can make it in this snow.

>> reporter: in massachusetts, a snow emergency , workers plowed into the wee hours . same in philadelphia , where the mayor is urging people to stay home and took to the streets himself.

>> our forces are out. we have hundreds of pieces of equipment, they're all over this storm . we're going to keep fighting it as long as this stuff is coming down.

>> reporter: in a rare move, the nfl canceled a big matchup in philly between the eagles and vikings.

>> the reason this game has been postponed until tuesday night is out of concern for public safety , travel in and around that's the reason.

>> reporter: in new jersey, they're expecting snow so bad officials declared a state of emergency . and when the snow does stop, officials say the winds won't.

>> it's blowing horizontally right now.

>> reporter: right into oncoming traffic. 125 accidents, one of them deadly. plows are trying to keep up, but the snow is falling too fast.

>> just stay in your home and relax. it's very dangerous out here.

>> reporter: a white christmas can be magic, a blizzard the day after christmas, torture. amtrack canceled -- jfk and laguardia all shut down entirely. 2,000 flights canceled and counting, with more already planned today.

>> there's about 25 to 50 people on stand by.

>> reporter: now comes the cleanup, from boston to new york city . where the great white way needs salt. and you can see it's probably going to take a lot of salt to do it. in fact they say, for every inch of snow that falls in new york city , it costs $1 million to clean it up. so far we have gotten 13-plus inches. they expect it could go up especially with the snow drifting, up to 18 to 20 inches, that's a lot of money. the only saving grace here is that it's a vacation week for a lot of people. not us, lester , and a lot of the schools are out. so at least we have that and the kids can enjoy the beautiful snow out here.

>> mike seidel is about 200 miles up the coast in massachusetts. just outside boston . mike good morning to you.

>> reporter: and good morning, lester . we're still in the thick of it here in southern new england . blizzard warnings in portland until at least 5:00 p.m . we're still getting wind gusts as high as 40 miles an hour. logan is still closed, snow and blowing snow , 50-mile-per-hour wind gusts. out on the cape, it has been a horrible afternoon and evening and overnight. we have got at least 30,000 customers without power. wind gusts as high as 80 miles an hour. but it's changed from snow to rain. once the storm goes by nantucket in a few hours, it will change back to snow. in the next few hours, it's impossible with the snow drifting. they will get the trains rolling between new york and boston . i don't know if my pile is higher than yours. but i'm going to try to mount this one. all night long, all you hear is plows, plows and more plows. and there you go, mountains of snow and more on the way, three to five more inches today.

>> your mound is -- ours is being cut down to size as we speak by a tractor, but nice climbing there. mike seidel , thanks.

>> we should have done that live on television. anyway, how long will this blizzard last? we have al roker tracking the storm .

>> good morning, guys and of course depending on where you are, that's when this will be ending here in the northeast. philadelphia has picked up almost 12 inches , cape may , new jersey. look at these averages, these are the seasonal averages, philadelphia has already come very close to their seasonal average. cape may has beaten their seasonal average. new york city is more than halfway to what we normally get for an entire season and boston picking up almost a quarter of that. now as you look at the winds, between boston and hartford, 38-mile-per-hour wind gusts, 16 up in parts of new england. new york, look at these wind gusts, 41 miles an hour and that's going to be what causes all the problems with the airports, with the blowing and drifting snow . we have blizzard warnings from atlantic city all the way to caribou, maine. sustained winds at 35 miles an hour. here's the path of the storm . wind gust 50 to 60-mile-per-hour. as this makes its way up the coast, the snow comes to an end, but the big problems t winds will remain, that's going to cause the problems, snowfall amounts another three to five inches in boston , as you get up into new england, those are going to be the heavier amounts, a foot of snow up in parts of northern new england .

>> we want to talk now about the ripple effect caused by the storm . there is gridlock at the airports coast to coast because of all this. all three major airports that service new york city are closed to start the day. the weather channel 's eric fisher is at laguardia airport with more on that, eric, good morning.

>> reporter: we have the planes grounded, the roads are a complete disaster. laguardia , 7:00 a.m ., no one's here. laguardia is expected to open in the until 7:00 this evening. we're talking about a total travel nightmare and for many, that nightmare is just beginning. for the millions of people traveling over the holiday weekend, nobody had this scene on their wish list. thousands of flights canceled, hundreds of thousands of people stranded in airports. as the eastern seaboard battled its first major storm of the winter, air travel froze to a stop.

>> we came early this morning at 10:00 and found out our flights were canceled and rescheduled until wednesday.

>> reporter: by 9:00 last night, jfk and newark airports were closed. laguardia barely moving. flights in boston , forced to change their plans. in response to the severe weather , most carriers have waived their fees for flight changes through the 27th.

>> everybody's been very nice, air trans has been very gracious to try to get us out of here.

>> reporter: air travelers across the country can expect more delays, long lines and a good deal of frustration.

>> trying to get on amtrak, evidently there's an hour of holding to try to get through.

>> reporter: by last night, even the train option had been taken off the board. the reality is that a storm of this size, the choices become very simple.

>> we're debating whether to try to get a hotel room or just be troopers and stay all night here tonight.

>> reporter: some of these folks, they're not going to get out of here until maybe wednesday or thursday according to some of the passengers we spoke to. you heard about that passenger talking about a hotel. there's a financial inconvenience with the tihotel. many of these people, you wish them the best.

>> it's going to be tough days ahead, eric fisher . thanks very much.

>> as we mentioned, the blizzard postponed the sunday fight football game in philadelphia . michelle, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, and is this minnesota? it feels like it with this wind. because of that, the gusts that keep whipping up, the snow is still whorizontal in the air. we'll see this wall of snow coming down these side streets . you breathe in and you get a mouth full of snow. it's breathtaking to see and also quite literally. the snowplows are all out, but here in downtown philadelphia in the suburbs, a lot of these roads are terrible to drive on if not impassable. from the moment the snow started the fall about 18 hours ago, you could tell this is not just a heavy snowstorm, but it's fierce. it's basically like a snow hurricane. we're talking in some places 60-mile-per-hour and up winds. we always talk about rain bands coming in from the coast, this storm has snow bands and how much snow you got really depended on where you were located. coastal new jersey got up to 20 inches and as you go further west, you get a few fewer inches. but plenty of snow to cause a lot of trouble here. ann?

>> all right, michelle, nice hat, get inside. thank you so much.

>> again, by the way, you can watch the eagles face the vikings on a special tuesday night football matchup starting at 8:00 p.m . eastern, 7:00 central time here on nbc.

>>> the south was not spared from this storm , more than seven inches of snow fell in raleigh , north carolina , the weather channel 's adam berg is there for us this morning.

>> reporter: good morning, lester . it is cold right now for raleigh . temperatures right around 22. the winds not so bad, but even a little bit of the wind makes it pretty rough out here. windchills about 15 degrees right now. victim is so much better t storm is now through north carolina . the roads are still a little tricky , a lot of black ice out there. traveling is still tricky, it's hard to get out of the raleigh area. here's some of the interesting stats for the south. this snow is not so impressive, necessarily, it's impressive how early it came. storm totals are right around 7 inches. but that half-inch that we got on christmas day , in raleigh , that was the first time we have seen a measurable snow ever on christmas day in raleigh . places like atlanta, that 1.2 inches you got. that was your first measurable snow on christmas. you had 20 go all the way back to 1882 to find another christmas day where we had snow, and there was about a third of an inch. and in columbia, south carolina , first measurable snowfall on record. you got to go back to 1887 for that one as well. so it's not so impressive necessarily for some of the cities picking up the snow, it's odd how early some of the snow came and how crippling some of the windchills are and the cold weather behind it. so a lot of the snow you see right now, as pretty as it is, it's going to be sticking around for a couple of days, but i was looking at the long-term forecast, looks like things get a lot nicer as we go through the next couple of days, some 60s starting to creep back into the south. the kids are loving this, but i think the adults are ready for a little bit of a warming trend.