18 dead as massive blizzard hits US east coast

Published: Sunday 24th January 2016 by The News Editor

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At least 18 deaths have been blamed on the blizzard with hurricane-force winds that has brought much of the US east coast to a standstill.

The victims were killed in car crashes, from hypothermia and while shovelling snow, with forecasters warning that dangerous conditions will persist into Sunday.

The blizzard dumped a s much as three feet of snow, stranding tens of thousands of travellers and shutting down Washington and New York City.

After days of weather warnings, most of the 80 million people in the storm’s path heeded requests to stay home and off the roads, which were largely deserted.

“This is going to be one of those generational events, where your parents talk about how bad it was,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said from Tallahassee, Florida, which also got some flakes.

The system was mammoth, dropping snow from the Gulf Coast to the north-eastern New England states.

By afternoon, areas near Washington had surpassed 30 inches, according to the weather service’s running totals. The heaviest unofficial report was in a rural area of West Virginia, not far from Harper’s Ferry, with 40 inches.

In addition to snow and wind, the National Weather Service predicted up to half an inch of ice for the Carolinas and potentially serious coastal flooding for the mid-Atlantic region.

Airlines cancelled nearly 7,000 weekend flights and started to cut the service for Monday.

The bulk of Saturday’s 4,459 cancellations were at airports in the New York City and Washington metro areas. Another 2,467 flights were cancelled for Sunday, and the count keeps rising.

As the storm picked up, forecasters increased their snow predictions for New York and points north.

The new estimates were for heavy snow nearly all the way to Boston, forecaster Patrick Burke said from the weather service’s Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland.

“This is kind of a top 10 snowstorm,” said weather service winter storm expert Paul Kocin, who co-wrote a two-volume textbook on blizzards.

And for New York and Washington he said it looks like top 5: “It’s a big one.”

In New York, three people died while shovelling snow in Queens and Staten Island.

The normally bustling streets around Rockefeller Centre, Penn Station and other landmarks were mostly empty. Those who did venture out walked down the middle of snow-covered streets to avoid even deeper drifts on the pavements.

Published: Sunday 24th January 2016 by The News Editor

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