US East Coast digging out from snow chaos

December 21st, 2009 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 21 (DPA) The US East Coast was digging out after a massive storm shut down the East Coast over the weekend with an icy blanket as deep as 60-cm in places.
The storm was blamed for at least five deaths, four of them from traffic accidents, the fifth from hypothermia, according to media reports.

The storm, a so-called northeaster which started with heavy rain in Florida last week and showered snow over Washington DC for 12 hours starting late Friday, swept north through Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

It dumped up to 60 cm of snow in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, and was headed offshore by late Sunday, Accuweather.com reported.

The snowfall stranded motorists and air passengers alike and cut power to thousands. More than 1,600 flights were cancelled, filling airports with disgruntled travellers.

Shopping malls closed throughout the mid-Atlantic region on the normally busy, last shopping weekend before Christmas, cutting into already struggling retail sales.

Bitter cold weather was expected to persist through the coming week, making it likely snow will remain in many places until Friday, when Christmas is celebrated across the US, weather forecasters said.

Schoolchildren in the Washington DC area celebrated the prospect of cancellations reaching into Monday and even Tuesday in outlying regions.

The snowfall of at least 40 cm was the deepest in the Washington area for December in about 70 years, and was also among the region’s 10 deepest snowfalls ever. The previous record in December for snowfall in Washington was 31 cm in 1932, said meteorologist Alan Reppert of Accuweather.com Inc in State College, Pennsylvania.

Washington’s bus services were suspended, resumed Sunday afternoon, only to be shut down again Sunday evening because of ice. Most Metrorail train service remained suspended to above-ground stations because of ice on the tracks through most of Sunday.

Washington’s three airports - Baltimore-Washington International, Dulles and Reagan - closed, as did Philadelphia airport and Boston’s Logan Airport, and flights slowly started resuming Sunday.

“This is definitely the biggest snowstorm on record for DC in December,” said Reppert.

Philadelphia’s 54 cm of snow was the city’s December record and the second-biggest accumulation behind 78 cm in January 1996, Accuweather said.

About 25 cm fell on New York City. Parents abandoned buggies and popped their kids onto sleds, pulling them into Central Park for sledding, where cross country skiers and joggers were out in full force. Fifty cm of snow fell on Long Island to the east of Manhattan.

The US government announced offices will remain closed in Washington Monday to keep the city free of traffic for the cleanup.

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