BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 9: Snow covered vehicles sit on Commonwealth Avenue on February 9, 2013 in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The powerful storm has knocked out power to 650,000 and dumped more than two feet of snow in parts of New England. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON - After one of the worst snowstorms in a century, life in the Northeast is returning to normal faster than many expected.
Electric power is back in most places. Airports are open. Amtrak and commuter trains are mostly running. Warm weather is on the way. What remains is plenty of shoveling and plowing.
New England states will dodge a second big storm that dropped a foot of snow Sunday on the Great Plains, says AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Edwards. That storm is now on track to head north into Canada and cause rain, but no snow, on New England and New York.
The rain will be absorbed by the snowpack and could cause fog and flooding in urban areas, Edwards says. "It will help things enormously once the rain moves on, temperatures remain warm and the sun comes out, probably Tuesday," Edwards says.
The mood in Boston Sunday was one of seriousness and getting back to the business of life, as the subway and bus system hummed back into service ahead of schedule and residents dug their cars out from under snowdrifts. Logan International Airport, which got 24.9 inches of snow, returned to a near-normal schedule of accepting and sending off flights.
Marie Humblet, 69, of Cambridge, Mass., who lived through the Blizzard of 1978, was impressed by how much better state and local officials managed the storm recovery this time.
"They knew exactly what would happen," Humblet said as she used a shovel to dig out the family car. "A lot of the things they did were done smartly."
In 1978, the region was shut down for nearly a week, thousands of cars were stranded on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and about 100 deaths were reported. This year, cars were ordered off the road well before the storm became intense. The death toll was at 15 in the Northeast and Canada, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he kept warm in a car while his father shoveled.
The number of customers without power fell to around 220,000 Sunday from a peak of 650,000 after the storm struck Friday and Saturday. By comparison, Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to more than 8million homes and more than 1million remained without electricity a week after the storm.
Hamden, Conn., a town of 60,000 near New Haven, got 40 inches of snow, the most in the storm, the National Weather Service reported. Only 59 customers were without power Sunday in Hamden, and all those were expected to have their lights on Sunday night, according to the United Illuminating Company.
Delta, JetBlue and other airlines say flights were back to normal or almost normal. About 4,100 flights were canceled Friday and 2,500 Saturday at U.S. airports, most at storm-stricken airports, according to the flight-tracking service FlightStats. Delta and most other airlines waived fees for ticket-changes caused by the storm.
President Obama declared Connecticut a disaster area Sunday, allowing state and local officials to tap the resources of heavy equipment from the National Guard.
Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Bill Finch asked for 25 excavating machines and 12 dump trucks to help haul away snow. The city was preparing to ticket and tow abandoned vehicles.
Most schools in the storm areas will be closed Monday, including Boston public schools and those in Long Island. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered all non-essential state employees to stay home Monday, so the road cleanup could continue quickly.
Many New England residents spent much of Sunday freeing their cars from under an avalanche of snow. Mountains of snow lined sidewalks.
"People living in apartment buildings in Cambridge thought, 'Oh well, someone else is going to shovel for me,'" said Emma Keough, 26, with a laugh, but with so much snow, residents had to do much of the work themselves.
Keough was in the final leg of shoveling out her car Sunday afternoon so she could make it to her job Monday at a farm 11 miles away. She'd done the job in pieces - 90 minutes Saturday and a little on Sunday - to make it less daunting.
She'd found a broken shovel to help dig out her car. A neighbor used a bucket. A woman down the street used a dust pan.
Melanie Eversley and Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY