Snoverkill slams eastern US


A second major snowstorm in less than a week struck the eastern United States on Wednesday, paralyzing the US capital, shutting down the federal government and forcing school closures from Virginia to New York.
The National Weather Service forecast that the storm, dubbed “Snoverkill,” would dump up to 14 inches (36 centimeters) of fresh snow on the mid-Atlantic region.
This comes on top of the three feet (91 cm) of snow from the weekend’s powerful blizzard, much of which remains on the ground.
Federal government offices in the US capital closed Wednesday for the third straight day, while local schools prepared to remain closed until next week.
Even in New York city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered schools closed for the day.
The NWS issued a blizzard warning for the Washington-Baltimore area starting at 1500 GMT Wednesday and lasting nine hours. It warned of heavy snowfall and winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour (32 to 48 kilometers per hour), with even more powerful gusts.
“Blowing and drifting snow will reduce visibility to a quarter of a mile or less at times, producing blizzard conditions,” the NWS said in its 0845 GMT advisory.
“This will lead to whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel,” the advisory read.
It also issued a blizzard warning for New York in effect until early Thursday morning.
“The snow may mix with rain and sleet at times” on Wednesday, “but will otherwise be heavy at times during the day.”
By late Wednesday the NWS forecast between eight and 13 inches of snow for New York.
Thousands of homes were still without power in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area after Friday and Saturday’s massive snowfall dubbed “Snowmageddon.”
Strong winds expected to accompany the second storm could also mean further power outages.
Snow-weary residents have since scrambled to get a sense of normalcy, digging out, stocking up on depleted groceries and clearing their streets from fallen trees and branches.
But even before the storm hit, many secondary roadways remained treacherous, with piles of snow and near-invisible black ice.
Harried commuters in the mid-Atlantic states struggled to dig out buried cars and trundle to work Tuesday on icy roads, while subway users in the US capital suffered long waits despite the relaunch of suspended above ground services.
But just hours after the first new flurries began to fall, Metro said subway service would be limited to underground only stations until Thursday, while transit officials canceled bus and shuttle service.
Most of the 230,000 federal employees in the Washington DC area were off work, costing an estimated 100 million dollars a day in lost productivity. Some government offices including the White House, parts of Congress and some agencies however remained operational.
Washington, Virginia and Maryland all declared emergencies, allowing them to mobilize the National Guard to help cope with the unusually severe winter wallop.
No flights were expected to take off from Washington’s Reagan National and Dulles International airports on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said.
Airlines operating out of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago also reported cancellations and delays.
The government-owned rail corporation Amtrak said it would operate limited service along its money-making Northeast corridor on Wednesday. In addition to snow, the rail service was also battling downed trees and power lines.
Jennifer Ganem, stuck at home in the Maryland suburbs with four children under the age of 10, said her family had been particularly challenged by a weekend power outage that kept them in the dark for almost two days.
Ganem said news of another blast of snow was a real downer, even for her children who usually look forward to sledding and snow days off from school.
“My daughter actually said to me this morning, ‘OK, I’m done with winter now,'” she said.
“That’s a bad sign when you’ve got 20 more inches of snow coming.”

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010

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