March 5, 2019 / 3:12 AM / 15 days ago

Commuter jet slides off Maine runway as East Coast digs out from snow

(Reuters) - New England dug out from more than a foot of snow on Monday that snarled commutes, canceled nearly 1,800 airline flights and was blamed for injuries to five people after a commuter jet slid off a snowy runway in northern Maine, forcing the airport to close.

A worker cuts away a tree that fell across Riverside Drive during a snow storm in upper Manhattan in New York City, New York, March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A pilot and four passengers suffered minor injuries when the United Express flight, a 50-seat Embaraer 145, veered off the runway at Presque Isle International Airport, in northern Maine, about 150 miles east of Canada’s Quebec City, on landing at about 11:30 a.m., the airport said on Facebook.

All five were transported to nearby Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital where they were treated and released, the airport said. The plane was damaged and would remain in place until Federal Aviation Administration officials could assess the scene.

“At this time, the airport is closed and officials are currently in discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine when the runway will be reopened,” the airport said.

A band of winter weather stretching from Maryland to Maine dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of New England, including 15 inches (38 cm) overnight on downtown Boston, National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard reported.New York City was spared the worst of the late-winter storm, although Mayor Bill de Blasio took the rare step of shutting the city’s massive public school system and New Jersey Transit canceled about a dozen trains on its sprawling commuter system.

The mayor defended the school closures on Twitter after snow totals in New York were less than expected and parents complained on social media that he had overreacted.

“We put safety first when we make a call on closing school. The overnight storm had more rain and less snow than forecasted. We know it’s tough for working parents - that’s why we made an early decision so New Yorkers could plan,” de Blasio said in a tweet.

More than 1,700 flights were canceled on Monday and another 4,500 were delayed, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com.

Government offices and libraries in Boston were closed. In New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, state workers had a two-hour delay.

“This is horrible!” said Steve Wesley, 56, as he shoveled snow from his driveway in Maplewood, New Jersey. Wesley’s two-mile local commute by car was delayed nearly two hours by the 4 to 6 inches of snow. 

Commuting challenges may mount in the coming days as snow melts and temperatures drop, icing over roadways.

“Each day is a little bit cooler,” the National Weather Service’s Chenard said, noting the week’s highest temperatures for the Northeast will be in the low 30s (1 C).

“You’ll get some melting during the day, especially when the sun is hitting the snow, and then at night it’s going to be cold enough to refreeze. Any road surfaces that aren’t treated, certainly could get icy at night into the morning,” he said.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler

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