independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

US storm marches north towards New York

A man walks through the slush and shields himself from freezing rain on Capitol Hill in Washington, today, as winter weather shuts down Washington. Photo: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A winter storm which lashed wide swathes of the south-eastern United States has dumped more than a foot (30 cms) of snow in parts of the Washington metro region as it marches north towards New York.

The icy weather threatened more power cuts and transport disruption.

Streets were deserted in Washington. As southerners did a day earlier, many heeded warnings to stay off the roads.

The sound of plastic shovels against the pavement rang out, and cars were capped in white. Eleven inches (28 cms) of snow had accumulated, with more falling. People trudged through it on foot, hopping over piles built up at intersections. Federal offices and the city's two main airports were closed.

Baltimore awoke to 15 ins (38 cms) of snow. Snow blowers roared, breaking the quiet of of the city centre as they cleared city pavements in a sleeting rain. But every cleared strip created a potential hazard as it quickly iced over. Traffic was light, with some pedestrians taking to the middle of road.

Though the worst of the storm has largely passed for most in the south, some parts remained a world of ice-laden trees and driveways early today. Hundreds of thousands are still without power, and 13 deaths were blamed on the weather.

For the mid-Atlantic states and north-east, the heavy weather is the latest in an unending drumbeat of storms that have depleted salt supplies and caused schools to run out of snow days.

The storm was threatening to dump up to 20 ins (51 cms) of snow today to some areas in the region.

At least 11 deaths across the region were blamed on the treacherous weather on Wednesday, including three people who were killed when an ambulance careened off an icy Texas road and caught fire.

Nearly 3,300 airline flights nationwide were cancelled.

The National Weather Service called the storm "catastrophic ... crippling ... paralysing ... choose your adjective."

New York City could see up to 12 ins (30 cms) of snow, the agency said. Federal offices in Washington were closed today.

President Barack Obama declared a disaster area in South Carolina and for parts of Georgia, opening the way for federal aid. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, palm trees were covered with a thick crust of ice.

Ice combined with wind gusts up to 30 mph (48 kph) snapped tree limbs and power lines on Wednesday. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Georgia, 130,000 in South Carolina and nearly 30,000 in Louisiana. Some people could be in the dark for days.

The constant spate of storms is taking a financial toll. The state of Massachusetts has already burned through its 43 million dollars (£26m) snow- and ice-fighting budget - having spent about 75 million dollars (£45m) before today's storm even hit.

In North Carolina, drivers got caught in monumental traffic jams and abandoned their cars in a replay of what happened in Atlanta just two weeks ago.

While Atlanta's highways were clear, apparently because people learned their lesson and stayed home, thousands of cars were backed up on the slippery, snow-covered interstates around Raleigh, North Carolina, and short commutes turned into hours-long journeys.

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