THE US north-east has started digging itself out after a blizzard dumped up to 40 inches of snow with hurricane force winds, killing at least nine people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
Utility companies were yesterday reporting roughly 350,000 customers still without electricity across a nine-state region after the wet, heavy snow brought down tree branches and power lines. About half a million had been down as of late Saturday.
Air traffic began to return to normal Sunday after some 5,800 flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday.
Rare travel bans in Connecticut and Massachusetts were lifted but roads throughout the region remained treacherous, according to state transportation departments.
As the region recovered, another large winter storm building across the Northern Plains was expected to leave a foot of snow and bring high winds from Colorado to central Minnesota into today, the National Weather Service said.
South Dakota was expected to be hardest hit, with winds reaching 50 miles per hour, creating white-out conditions. The storm was expected to reach parts of Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin.
Friday and Saturday’s mammoth storm stretched from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and covered several spots in the north-east with more than three feet of snow. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts took the brunt of the blizzard.
Roads were impassable, and cars were entombed by snow drifts. Some people couldn’t open the doors of their homes.
“It’s like lifting cement,” said Michael Levesque, who was shovelling snow in Massachusetts. They say it’s two feet, but I think it’s more like three feet.”
Hamden, Connecticut, had 40in and nearby Milford 38in, the National Weather Service said.
Stratford, Connecticut, mayor John Harkins told WTNH television that snow had fallen at a rate of six inches an hour and even ploughs were getting stuck.
The storm dropped 31.9in of snow on Portland, Maine, breaking a 1979 record, the weather service said. Winds gusted to 83 miles per hour at Cuttyhunk, New York, and brought down trees across the region.
The storm contributed to at least five deaths in Connecticut and two each in New York state and Boston, authorities said. A motorist in New Hampshire also died when he went off a road but authorities said his health may have been a factor in the crash.
The two deaths in Boston were separate incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning in cars, an 11-year-old boy and a man in his early-20s. The boy had climbed into the family car to keep warm while his father cleared snow. The engine was running but the exhaust was blocked, said authorities.
There were also road rescues along the Long Island Expressway from Friday night to Saturday morning, some using snowmobiles. A baby girl was delivered early Saturday by emergency services personnel in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the blizzard of 1978, used by New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.
In New York, where Central Park recorded 11in, not even enough to make the Top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city “dodged a bullet” and its streets were “in great shape.”
The three major airports – LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark – were up and running by late yesterday morning after shutting down the evening before.