Skiers injured as chairlift plunges in US snow chaos
THE heaviest December snowfalls in six decades left travellers in the northeast US struggling amid waist-high drifts and blizzard winds.
New York's Central Park had 20 inches (51cm) of snow by 8am, the most for the month since 1948, the US National Weather Service said.
As skies began to clear over New York, enabling airports to prepare for opening again, the freezing havoc moved on with blizzard warnings for Boston and into Maine.
A chairlift derailed in high winds at Maine's tallest ski mountain and sent screaming skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below, injuring several of them.
The Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley reported six people were injured when five chairs fell. The resort's ski patrol evacuated the lift, which had passed an inspection.
None of the injuries were reported to be life-threatening, the resort said. The injured were treated and taken to hospital.
Jay Marshall, hunkered down in a cold wind while on a lift next to the broken one, said that his lift was moving but that the broken one was not.
There was a "loud snapping noise" after the lift restarted, he said, then screams.
"The next thing I know, it was bouncing up and down like a yo-yo," he said. Some skiers tumbled from their chairs.
Jill Gray, a spokeswoman for Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, about 45 miles from the mountain, said that one person was taken there and flown to Maine Medical Centre in Portland.
Another person was being treated in Franklin's emergency room, she said, and the hospital expected to receive five more patients. She did not give details on the injuries.
At the time of the accident, high winds were buffeting Maine a day after a blizzard swept across the region.
The storm forced airlines to cancel more than 6,000 flights yesterday, when airports began to close. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said LaGuardia, John F Kennedy International and Newark Liberty airports opened last night for outgoing traffic.
"It doesn't get much worse than this," Tom Kines, a meteorologist at State College, Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather Inc, said. "To get this much snow with the amount of wind that is accompanying it is devastating."
New York, which faces a $2.5bn (€1.9bn) deficit in its $65bn (€49.5bn) budget, will be more affected by lost economic activity than the clean-up costs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.