Fourth nor’easter in three weeks eclipses arrival of spring

More than a half-foot of snow fell on parts of the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday as spring opened with yet another nor’easter — the fourth in less than three weeks.

An icy medley of snow, sleet and freezing rain coated metropolitan Philadelphia and much of the Washington, D.C., suburbs, with moderate to heavy snow recorded from northern Maryland to southern New Jersey by mid-afternoon.

About 400 arrivals and departures had been canceled by early Tuesday evening at Philadelphia International Airport, Reagan National Airport in the D.C. suburbs and Baltimore/Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport.

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Severe weather overwhelms the South; Northeast braces for 4th nor'easter
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Many more Wednesday arrivals and departures were pre-emptively canceled at major airports in the Northeast, where the worst of the storm was expected to arrive beginning overnight — almost 2,100 by early Tuesday evening, almost 1,400 of them at the big three New York regional hubs: JFK and LaGuardia airports in Queens and Newark airport in New Jersey.

Amtrak canceled Wednesday’s Acela express service from Washington through New York to Boston and limited other service sharply throughout the region. New York and Philadelphia city schools will be closed Wednesday.

Regional utilities reported only a few thousand customers without power scattered across the sprawling northeastern quadrant of the country on Tuesday. But that number was expected to skyrocket overnight and Wednesday as the icy mess moves up the Northeastern and New England coasts before ending as all snow in New England on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Various winter weather advisories stretched from northwestern North Carolina to Massachusetts early Tuesday evening. Most of the eastern half of that area — including Baltimore; Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; metropolitan New York; Philadelphia; Providence, Rhode Island; and Washington — was either already under more severe winter storm warnings or was to be under such warnings at rush hour Wednesday morning.

«Travel will be very difficult to impossible, especially during the evening commute» on Wednesday in cities like New York, Philadelphia and New Haven, where snow accumulations of more than a foot were predicted, the National Weather Service said.

Significant but lesser accumulations of 4 to 8 inches were predicted for Washington, Baltimore and other cities farther south, while 5 to 10 inches of snow was expected in Boston and points north, it said.

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What makes a storm a nor'easter?
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The new system extends a streak of late-season nor’easters that have bashed the East Coast this month.

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The first nor’easter of the month, on March 2, halted flights and caused chaos for commuters. A second nor’easter, on March 7, left thousands of customers without power and up to 2 feet of snow on the ground. The third, on March 12, hammered parts of the Northeast and New England.

But Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said this week’s system could top them all.

«For New York City, this is probably going to end up as the biggest of the four nor’easters, at least as far as snow totals go,» he said. «This is going to be a straight-up, all-day snow event.»

Jeff Kneuppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, urged people to get early trains out of Philadelphia on Tuesday, telling NBC Philadelphia that Wednesday would be a very difficult travel day.

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BETTER's winter survival guide
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The coincidence of spring’s arriving in tandem with another nor’easter made for an odd display of merchandise at a Busy Beaver building supply store in Washington, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

«We’ve had a rather unique month with March,» Mike Monath, the store’s general manager, told NBC affiliate WPXI of Pittsburgh on Tuesday. «We’ve tried to transition into spring, [but] the weather is not cooperating, so we have a mixture of Easter flowers, gas grills and also rock salt and ice-melter, which is still popular this morning.»

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