"Whopper Blizzard!" "East Coast Crippled," "One For The Books," screamed headlines of newspapers across the eastern seaboard following last week's record-breaking snowfall.
According to the National Weather Service, they weren't exaggerating. At final tally, the storm, which began on Sunday morning Jan. 7, and continued through Monday evening, dumped as much as 30 inches of snow in Philadelphia and 20 inches in New York. Parts of West Virginia got 43 inches of snow, and more than two feet fell in areas around Boston.
At least 43 deaths along the Northeast corridor were blamed on the storm. Eight states declared a full or limited state of emergency, banning all road travel except for emergency vehicles. While most newspapers went to press ? some at reduced runs ? treacherous roads sidelined delivery trucks.
The following is a sampling of how newspapers in the storm's path managed their printing, circulation and delivery operations.
Elkins, W.Va., Inter-Mountain
Circulation manager Gene Cowgill didn't mince words when describing the storm: "We got pounded. Our whole circulation area got pounded."
Little surprise then, that delivery for the 11,379 daily was "not up to par."
With mountain areas to cover and drifts up to 10 feet, some motor routes were stranded, but the biggest problems were in the outlying areas that comprise the bulk of the Inter-Mountain's circulation area, Cowgill said.
One driver reported that his route took nine hours to finish, and many brought people with them to help drop off papers ? and push if needed.
While the main roads had been pretty well cleared by Wednesday, some secondary roads still had as much as three feet of snow, Cowgill reported.
"Basically, we leave it up to the contractor," Cowgill said. "We print the paper. If you can't get it, don't do it." Those who didn't receive their Monday or Tuesday editions would get them later in the week, he added.
Morgantown, W.Va., Dominion Post
It's not often that people call the newspaper to compliment its service, but that's what they did in Morgantown.
Although some mountain routes were impassible, customers in town who received their newspapers on Monday called the Dominion Post to compliment its carriers.
"They couldn't believe they got their newspapers," said circulation operations manager Joe Duley. Full delivery was expected to resume on Wednesday, he added.
Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
With its circulation area encompassing mountains, beaches and everything in between, the Observer was hit fairly hard by the storm, said Gus Howell, circulation director of distribution.
Howell said that in its own county, the Observer went to about 95% of regular-delivery homes. That dropped to about 70% to 80% for total in-state operations, he added.
Along more isolated routes, such as the mountains, only about half of the newspapers were delivered; but subscribers who did not receive a paper, could opt for either back issues or a credit to their account.
"The carriers rose to the occasion," Howell said. "It was man against nature, or woman against nature. They looked at it as a big challenge. Managers spent 16 hours a day getting the paper out."
Not surprisingly, the Observer's in-store newsracks did much better than those on the street.
"They sold good where people were crazy enough to go out before they realized how bad the storm was," Howell observed.
Roanoke (Va.) Times & World-News
With most businesses closed Monday, the Times & World-News had a "day of grace," but by 6 a.m. Tuesday, its customer service lines were backed up with callers looking for their newspapers, said circulation director Helen Burnett, who added, "it's nice to be wanted."
The Times & World-News was able to get papers to any carrier who could get out, but many routes could not be completed. As a result, some subscribers received Sunday papers on Tuesday, since a few carriers had to empty their cars of the earlier edition before they could pick up new ones.
Janet Hollowell, Times & World-News single-copy manager, said many of the newsracks were buried so that there was no point in servicing them.
The extra papers were distributed to stores that were open, which Hollowell said were doing a steady business. And some were left in bundles in front of closed stores, where people just took copies.
"We're just kind of playing it by ear," Hollowell said Tuesday morning. "We spread the papers out to the stores that were reachable and serviced all the racks we could get to. We wanted the papers to be there so people could get to them."
Journal Newspapers, with six community dailies in suburban Virginia and Maryland, had a problem few other newspapers faced.
The papers are delivered each weekday by mail. Since the storm derailed mail delivery, the papers had no choice but to cancel publication, said president and publisher Karl Spain.
The papers, which Spain said are the largest daily newspapers using the mail for delivery, had produced up to the negative stage for Monday when they learned from a teleconference with the Postal Service that there would be no mail delivery on Monday. The problem surfaced again on Tuesday, when the mail again was delayed.
Instead, the six Journal papers planned a combined paper for Wednesday, which Spain hoped subscribers would receive that day, or later on if all routes were not deliverable.
Total snow accumulations varied from about five inches in town to more than two feet in the mountains. Despite the blitz, the News-Sentinel managed to get most of its editions out, said circulation director Dan Mashburn.
Some home delivery customers ? who jammed phones to ask about their newspapers ? were forgiving, but others expected their papers on the doorstep, blizzard be damned. A few stores asked for back issues, but Mashburn said there didn't seem to be a huge demand for the missed editions. Mashburn added the News-Sentinel planned to deduct Monday from its Audit Bureau of Circulations average.
Washington (D.C.) Times
The Washington Times was able to make its regular Sunday deliveries before the storm hit, but by Monday, it delivered only about a third of its single copy to sales outlets and printed and held editions for home delivery. Racks were eliminated altogether.
Circulation director Craig Simmers said that delivery was made to stores, hotels and media in the Washington metropolitan area, although some stores that were open asked that papers not be left there since they planned to close soon.
Tuesday was about the same for single copy, explained Simmers, who as of Tuesday morning had been on the job since 2 a.m. Sunday night.
One big problem, he said, was that until Monday, the only travel possible was on interstate highways. Many local roads had not been cleared.
Customers who did not receive Monday or Tuesday papers were slated to get them with their Wednesday papers, or during the course of the week, as carriers were able to bring them. In addition, Simmers said the Times was keeping track of customers who specifically asked for back issues to be sure they are received.
The Times also reduced its press run in anticipation of the reduced sales, Simmers added. On Sunday, it had a full run, on Monday, it was about 60%, Tuesday was only about 50%, and by Wednesday, it was expected to be back to about 75%.
The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)
For only the second time in its history, the Capital canceled publication on Monday. The last time this happened was in 1979, when the area was hit with 27 inches of snow, explained circulation director Ron Bieberich.
"It was a very tough decision, but we have to safeguard our carriers and our distribution personnel," he said, pointing out that most of the staff could not get into the office.
The Capital did not have much of a problem on the single-copy front, as over 90% of its circulation is home delivered. With many communities and rural roads not clear at all, the Capital drew on its standing list of independent contractors ? many of whom are government workers who do not work when the government closes in inclement weather. The contractors, most of whom have four-wheel-drive vehicles, get called by the paper when needed and can earn about $50 to $100 to help out.
"The ones with more intestinal fortitude go out," Bieberich said.
Although distributors were not let off the hook because of the weather, Bieberich said safety was the priority.
"You have to take a hard line, but with judgment vis-?-vis safety," Bieberich said. "We do not want to imperil people's lives. It's a calculated risk."
In Maryland, the Sun did very well on Tuesday getting all its papers to the drop locations, but on Monday, not all the papers were able to be delivered, according to vice president/circulation Robert O'Sullivan.
The Sun usually distributes 3,000 to 4,000 papers in nearby Pennsylvania. Although its trucks made it through on Sunday, the wholesaler did not pick them up. Single copies were brought to all Maryland stores that were open, but the paper just abandoned the plowed-under racks. "It's senseless to even fill them," O'Sullivan said.
For customer service on Monday, the Sun ran a recording that updated callers on the situation and assured them they would get the paper eventually.
When the message was taken off at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, representatives were overwhelmed by callers, some of whom had to wait on the line as long as six minutes, O'Sullivan said.
The Sun had delivered about 90% to 95% of its homes by Tuesday afternoon, with many papers being walked into uncleared streets. The paper also asked callers with unplowed streets to call the paper once the streets were cleared.
Philadelphia Daily News
and the Inquirer
The News and Inquirer trucks were all sidelined by the treacherous roads and a state of emergency which banned all nonessential travel, said Charles Fancher, vice president, communications and public affairs.
The Philadelphia area received over 30 inches of snow, and no newspapers went out until Tuesday. The normal press run, about 470,000, was reduced to about 400,000, he said.
"We've had major snowstorms before, but no one has ever seen anything like this before in Philly," Fancher said on Wednesday.
One upshot of the storm was that "Philly Online" the newspapers' Internet site, received about 153,000 hits, about double the normal amount, Fancher said. The site is at http://www.philly news.com.
The Record (Bergen Co., N.J.)
On Monday, 17.8% of the newspaper's carriers picked up their newspapers, said Rich Klypka, product services manager/delivery systems. He added that 10,799 copies were delivered to homes, and newspapers went to about 1,000 stores, out of a normal store delivery of about 1,300. The newspaper's daily circulation is about 160,000.
No newspapers went into street boxes on Monday or Tuesday, Klypka said, although the rest of delivery was "reasonably normal" on Tuesday.
New York Post
For the Post, the biggest challenge was "getting drivers to come in," said John Amann, vice president/ circulation operations manager.
"At least the Post made an attempt," he said. "We had trucks getting stuck. Manhattan was OK, but the outer boroughs, Brooklyn and Staten Island, were a problem." The Post "got out about 60% of our normal stops for the delivery trucks," he said.
A typical press run for the Post is 500,000. On Monday, about 260,000 copies of the newspaper were printed, and on Tuesday, about 210,000 were printed, Amann added.
New York Times
A normal Times press run is about 1.2 million nationwide, said spokeswoman Nancy Nielsen. On Monday, that was reduced by about 250,000. Of that, 50,000 came out of the Northeast.
Another 200,000 were cut from New York City and suburban newsstands and schools.
Nielsen added that delivery trucks could not get to Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Times cut its press run by 200,000. Delivery "was better" in Manhattan and New Jersey, Nielsen said, but parts of Long Island and Northern Westchester were "more difficult." The newspapers did go into Baltimore, D.C. and Philadelphia.
In Boston, the storm hit on Monday. The Globe reduced its press run about 25,000 copies and started about an hour early, said Steve Cahow, circulation director.
The Globe was able to go to about 80% of all home deliveries, though delivery to street boxes and street vendors was halted.
There was a 15% to 20% cut in delivery to stores, Cahow added.
Newspapers along East Coast hit with impassible roads, states of emergency and reduced press runs
By: DEBRA GERSH HERNANDEZ and DOROTHY GIOBBE THE SUPERLATIVES FLEW almost as furiously as the snow.