- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf declared a state of emergency as a nor’easter approached, and Mayor Michael Nutter said all city offices and public and Catholic schools would be closed Tuesday despite reduced projections of 6 to 10 inches of snow expected in the city.

The storm led airlines to cancel thousands of flights and prompted Philadelphia and other school districts to send students and nonessential city employees home early Monday.

Some snapshots from around the state:

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Gwynne Sigel, retrieving her daughter at about noon Monday at Albert M. Greenfield School in Philadelphia, wondered if the storm would be as bad as advertised. Still, she understood the need for caution.

“It’s always 11th hour with the early dismissals. But, with the snow, it’s tricky,” Sigel said. “They carry on a lot here in Philly, the weathermen. They always think it’s going to be terrible, and then you have to wait and see.”

Her 13-year-old daughter, Zamira Sigel-Kulick, planned to sleep in Tuesday but can’t laze around all day.

“My teachers gave us a lot of homework to do tomorrow,” Zamira said.

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As light snow began to coat roads, Philadelphia International Airport was relatively calm Monday afternoon.

Gina Mort, of Illinois, waited on a friend from Delaware to pick her up for a weeklong visit. Her flight from Chicago had been only a half-hour late.

“This is turning out a lot better than I expected,” Mort said.

Mort’s visits have earned her the nickname Hurricane Gina. The last time she was in town, Hurricane Sandy swept up the East Coast.

Officials later said that airlines operating at the airport had canceled most flights on Tuesday. But there are no plans to close the airport during the storm because crews will be working to be ready when airlines resume operations, airport spokeswoman Diana Gerace said.

Pillows, blankets, bottled water, snacks and kits containing personal care items are being distributed to stranded passengers. And there are cots in designated sleeping zones

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The governor issued an emergency declaration to help state and local agencies deal with the storm. At a late afternoon news conference, he said that it was “not time to get excited or panicky,” but he asked people to avoid driving.

The National Guard activated 150 guardsmen, stationed in the Philadelphia region, where officials initially were expecting high winds and 10 to 14 inches of snow. The mayor said late Monday night that forecasters were projecting only 6 to 10 inches of snow in the city but strong winds were still expected.

He said public and parochial schools and city offices would be closed Tuesday. He said officials didn’t want schoolchildren and school buses out when crews were expected to be clearing snow likely to fall overnight.

City public and Catholic schools dismissed students at noon Monday, and nonessential city personnel were dismissed two hours later.

The city earlier declared a snow emergency, ordering vehicles removed from snow emergency routes.

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Jeff Greene, who braved the start of the storm Monday to sell the latest issue of Philadelphia’s One Step Away homeless newspaper, had no complaints.

“I love it,” he said. “I’m from Chicago, so we’re used to (it).”

He expected police and outreach workers to take anyone on the street into a shelter.

“I’m very lucky,” Greene said. “I’ve got my housing. I’m out here giving back, helping others.”

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Transportation officials in Pennsylvania warned drivers that restrictions may be imposed during the storm.

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials said speeds may be reduced to 45 mph between the Harrisburg East exchange and the Delaware River bridge and on the Northeast Extension and commercial vehicles may be restricted.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said it may impose similar restrictions on interstates in the Philadelphia area and the Pocono Mountains.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said trains will operate all night on the busy Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines but the Nite Owl overnight bus service will not operate.

And SEPTA officials warned that routes in hilly areas or on tight streets may be cut back or suspended and drifting snow may affect the Norristown High Speed Line.

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Homeless people packed Philadelphia’s Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission before dark Monday. The Rev. Sam Peake said they expected up to 300 people to eat hot meals and sleep at the mission.

At Project HOME, a nonprofit homeless advocacy organization in the city, workers fanned out to help bring the homeless off the streets.

Outreach worker Sam Santiago joined a city councilman in the effort and urged residents to call Project HOME if they had concerns about someone who may be homeless.

“Some people will seek refuge in train stations or any place that people can go to get warm,” said Jennine Miller, the group’s director of advocacy and public policy. “For anybody that is still outside, we want to make sure they get inside as quickly as possible.”

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Associated Press writers Michael Sisak in Philadelphia and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg contributed to this report.


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