Winter storm snarls traffic, shuts schools

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IOL pic dec10 usa winter snow storm

Reuters

A car spins out of control and into a ditch on Interstate 66 in Manassas, Virginia, outside of Washington. A frigid winter storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without power in the south-eastern United States is pushing up the East Coast. Picture: Gary Cameron

New York - A fast-moving snowstorm barrelled through the US mid-Atlantic on Tuesday, cancelling flights, snarling roadways and shutting schools and government offices while winds kept the midsection of the country in an icy grip that killed at least 11 people.

The East Coast's first significant snowfall of the season dumped as much as 15cm on northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New England, according to the National Weather Service.

By midday the storm had blown through Washington, DC, where federal government offices were shut for the day, the Office of Personnel Management said. In neighbouring Delaware, Governor Jack Markell announced state offices were shut and urged residents to stay off dangerously slick roads.

New Jersey roads were littered with fender benders and some more serious accidents, including a jack-knifed tractor trailer and a bus that skidded off the road.

“It was like dominoes. Cars couldn't get up the hills,” said Stanley Jackson, who was ploughing snow in northern New Jersey. “People were just sliding into one another.”

In Oklahoma, the medical examiner said winter weather was responsible for 11 deaths ranging from traffic accidents on icy roads to falling into icy waters.

Snowflakes falling on Times Square in New York City thrilled tourists, including Janet Major, 57, from England.

“It's like Miracle On 34th Street. It's added to the holiday atmosphere,” said Major, referring to the classic Christmas movie.

Alberto Rodriguez, 45, an auto repair mechanic from Orlando, Florida, agreed.

“I'm so happy. In the four years I've been coming here, I've never seen the snow. And this is my last day in the city,” Rodriguez said.

The city declared a snow alert and readied 365 salt spreaders, 282 front-end snow loaders and 1 800 ploughs, said Belinda Mager, spokeswoman for the city Sanitation Department.

More than 1 600 flights were cancelled, most of them in Newark, New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks air travel.

School districts in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, suburban Maryland, New Jersey and New York cancelled classes.

The new snowfall followed a swath of snow and sleet that swept through the nation over the weekend and Monday, dumping as much as 25cm on many areas.

Strong winds, expected to blow through the nation's midsection until Wednesday, created wind chills that made temperatures on Tuesday feel like minus 28 degrees Celsius in the Northern Plains and minus 23 degrees Celsius in the Midwest, meteorologist Andrew Baglini said on Accuweather.com.

Temperatures were minus 17.8 degrees Celsius in Pershing County, Nevada, on Tuesday morning as rescue workers searched for a couple and four young children who were reported missing on Sunday while visiting an abandoned mining camp. They were found hours later, safe and in good condition, huddled in a canyon in a remote mountain range north-east of Reno, said the Pershing County Sheriff's Office.

Homes and businesses from Indiana to West Virginia that lost power on Monday were returning to normal on Tuesday, including in Virginia where 15 000 people remained without power, down from 122 000 on Monday.

“Right now, we're looking at a lot of busted tree tops. That's always going to bring down a lot of poles and lines,” said Phil Moye, spokesman for Appalachian Electric Power in West Virginia, where more than 7 500 people remained without power.

Reuters


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