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East Coast begins digging out from mammoth record-breaking snowstorm

A killer snowstorm buried records along the Eastern Seaboard by dumping more than 3 feet of snow in places.
A snow plow clears a sidewalk of snow in the Manhattan borough of New York, Jan. 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
A snow plow clears a sidewalk of snow in the Manhattan borough of New York, Jan. 23, 2016. 

The Eastern Seaboard saw a slow return to normalcy Sunday after a killer snowstorm buried records by dumping more than 3 feet of snow in places, but air travel remained severely disrupted and most regional officials urged the public to stay off the roads until cleanup could be completed.

Crews had cleared many major thoroughfares in the hardest hit areas and travel bans were lifted. Mass transit systems slowly resumed normal operations. But many side roads remained impassable and icy conditions in the storm's wake remained a danger for motorists.

Officials in New York urged people not to drive if they didn't need to, but said public transportation was mostly operational. Meanwhile, officials in Washington, D.C., asked residents to stay home through Monday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the roads were clear and encouraged people to go about their normal business on Sunday.

At least 29 deaths have been attributed to the severe weather, which canceled thousands of flights and was beginning to ripple into airlines' schedules for Monday.

Live Blog: Latest Updates on The Snowstorm

At its height, the storm cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents, but most had electricity again by early Sunday. The biggest remaining outages affected about 25,000 customers in New Jersey — mostly along the Jersey Shore - with smaller outages reported in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Five states saw totals of more than 30 inches of snow — New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania — while storm surges saw tides reach near "Sandy-like levels" in New Jersey.

In New York City, Central Park recorded its all-time daily snowfall record with 26.6 inches of snow, according to The Weather Channel. The snowfall brought the overall storm total to 26.8 inches — just a tenth of an inch short of the all-time record for a single storm set in February 2006.

Other areas of the city got even more snow: John F. Kennedy Airport was walloped with 30.1 inches; Williamsburg in Brooklyn got 29; and at the Bronx Zoo, there was 27.6 inches of powder.

Elsewhere, Baltimore broke its all-time snowstorm record with 29.2 inches, while Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, also set a new record with 28.6 inches, according to The Weather Channel. The highest total so far was 42 inches at Glengary, West Virginia. Fourteen states received more than a foot of snow.

"It's likely to go down as one of the most impressive blizzards we've seen on the Eastern Seaboard in recorded history," said Michael Palmer, lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

New York City was churning back to life Sunday, after a travel ban that was put in place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday was lifted. Most forms of transportation resumed normal operations, save for the Long Island Rail Road, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo said crews were working hard to clear for Monday's commute. He said an update on the status of the railroad would be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday, but couldn't guarantee it would be up and running by Monday.

Photo Essay: 'Major storm' churns up East Coast

Baltimore also lifted a travel ban imposed Saturday.

In Connecticut, a Metro North patrol train hit a snowplow that got stuck on the tracks Sunday morning near Stamford, but there were no injuries.

Coastal flooding remained a concern throughout Sunday morning, with strong winds set to continue along the northern coastline.

"There will still be some elevated surf this morning — a lot of coastal flooding in Delaware in New Jersey," Palmer said. "There's been a lot of beach erosion with this system. Water levels got up to Sandy-like levels. The difference was that Sandy had the high waves on top of the tide."

Moderate to major coastal flooding had impacted the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the coast of southern New England, The Weather Channel reported.

Air travel continued to be disrupted, with more than thousands of flights canceled from Friday through Monday. More than nearly 800 Monday flights had been canceled, and FlightAware said that number undoubtedly would increase as the day wore on.

Airports serving New York City, including Newark Liberty, were resuming operations, though many Sunday flights already had been canceled. Runways at Washington's Reagan National and Dulles International airports were expected to remain closed through Sunday.

Stranded travelers Saturday included Defense Secretary Ash Carter, whose high-tech aircraft, the Doomsday Plane, couldn't land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland after returning from Europe. Carter was rerouted to Tampa, Florida.

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