Weather: Deadly winter storm batters eastern US

After pummelling swaths of the south-eastern United States, a winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow on other parts of country yesterday, as it marched north-east and threatened more power cuts, traffic headaches and widespread closures for millions of residents.

A man takes to his skis outside the US Congress in Washington. Picture: Getty

Nearly 3,300 airline flights nationwide have been cancelled, and the US National Weather Service described the storm as “catastrophic … crippling … paralysing … choose your adjective”.

Baltimore awoke to 15in of snow. Snow blowers roared, breaking the quietness downtown as they cleared city pavements. 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.

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Some streets in Washington were nearly deserted during the normally frantic rush-hour. As southerners did a day earlier, many heeded warnings to stay off the roads.

Cars were capped in white. People on foot trudged through the snow, hopping over piles built up at intersections. Federal offices and the city’s two main airports were closed.

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

New York City was braced for up to 12 inches of snow yesterday, the agency said, and Washington was predicted to get up to eight inches.

The constant spate of storms is taking a financial toll. The state of Massachusetts has already got through its $43 million (£26m) budget for tackling snow and ice: it had spent about $75m before yesterday’s storm even hit.

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. Hundreds of thousands were still without power, and 13 deaths have been blamed on the weather.

Three people were killed when an ambulance careered off an icy road in Texas and burst into flames.

President Barack Obama declared a disaster area in South Carolina and 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 of up to 30mph snapped tree branches and power lines. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Georgia, 130,000 in South Carolina and nearly 30,000 in Louisiana. Some people were warned they could be left without power for days.

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

While Atlanta’s highways were clear, apparently because people had learned their lesson and decided to stay at home, thousands of cars were backed up on the slippery, snow-covered motorways around Raleigh, North Carolina, and short commutes turned into journeys lasting several hours.