Thundersnow' storm causes havoc in US east coast
Published 27/01/2011 | 16:32
America's east coast has been battered by blizzards which have dumped 19 inches of snow, adding to the heaviest January many parts of the region have seen in decades.
Four hundred thousand Washington residents were left without power after a blizzard that began on Wednesday intensified overnight, bringing so-called "Thundersnow" to the capital.
The blizzard forced the closure of New York's JFK and Newark airports, leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights. The Long Island Rail Road, a major commuter line, also suspended services. Schools were closed and governments workers across the region were sent home early on Wednesday, with little prospect of returning on Thursday. The Statue of Liberty was closed for snow removal.
Even the most high profile commuter in the US was delayed. Barack Obama was forced to make his way to the White House from Andrews air force base by car rather than helicopter, after a trip to Wisconsin.
Residents of Washington experienced Thundersnow – a combination of snowfall, thunder and lightning that has become the new talking point on TV news – as New Yorkers had done the previous night.
It is the eighth time New York has seen snow since mid-December. Before this latest blizzard, the city had already seen 36 inches of snow this winter, compared to an average of 21 inches for the entire season.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was sharply criticised for his handling of the Boxing Day storm that left roads buried under two feet of snow, declared another weather emergency and sent out ploughs.
Meanwhile, Boston had received 50.4 inches of snow by Wednesday, almost thrice its average of 18.8 inches by this point in winter.
The National Weather Service appeared to have underestimated the conditions, which experts say are being caused by freak weather conditions over the Arctic.
It predicted a major storm, but said that after drawing moisture from southern tropical areas the winds would primarily bring rain.
However, the storm met a cold front coming down the east coast from Canada, ensuring snowfall.