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Americas

Deadly US snowstorm wreaks transport chaos

© Photo: AFP

Video by Jessica LE MASURIER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-04

Freezing temperatures, howling winds and heavy snowfall battered the US northeast on Friday, causing at least nine deaths and grounding thousands of flights.

Road transport was also heavily disrupted while schools and government offices were closed across the region as nearly two feet (60cm) of snow piled up in some of the hardest hit areas.

Meteorologists said the snow would taper off across much of the region by late morning, but dangerously cold conditions were expected to linger into Saturday.

The National Weather Service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (11-17 C) below the average, reaching  -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 C) in some areas, with record lows possible on Friday.

"Over the next 24 hours we are going to see temperatures like we haven't seen in quite a while," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

By Friday morning, about 2,200 flights were cancelled nationwide, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com. Most were in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC.

Deaths

At least nine deaths have so far been blamed on the storm, with road accidents the main cause. Icy roads have caused traffic deaths in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, authorities said.

A massive pile of salt fell on a worker at a Philadelphia storage facility, killing him. And authorities say a woman with Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural New York state home.

Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay at home. Hundreds of schools were shut down in Boston and New York, extending the holiday break for tens of thousands of students.

“People should seriously consider staying in their homes,'' New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Outreach teams were searching streets in New York City and Boston for homeless people at risk of freezing to death.

Some major highways in New York state were shut down overnight, and some commuter trains around New York City were operating on a reduced schedule.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered non-essential state workers to stay home Friday, and state offices and courthouses were closed. State offices were also closed in Massachusetts.

New York mayor hails ‘great response’

The heavy weather began rolling in Thursday, just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation's largest city.

De Blasio said 1,700 snowploughs and 450 salt spreaders had been deployed to clear the city’s streets.

“I feel great about the response,'' De Blasio said Friday after shovelling the sidewalk outside his Brooklyn home. “We are vigilant. We are not out of this yet.''

However, some New Yorkers were displeased at the city’s efforts to counter the effects of the storm.

"I'm sure mayor de Blasio is doing what he can, but a lot of the streets haven't been cleared at all and I'm not too happy about that," said Anesha Jones, 26, as she walked through Brooklyn to her job as a bank teller. She added that bus and subway delays added an hour to her regular commute.

Others took the storm in stride.

"It's winter. It snowed. It happens," said Mark Kulpa as he shovelled a sidewalk outside his Brooklyn workplace.

He said the response was better than a Christmas 2010 blizzard, where then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg came under heavy criticism for the city's slow response while he was out of town on holiday.

"At least they are out ploughing and spreading salt. That's already a step up," Kulpa said. "But really, what can you say in two days and just after a big storm?"

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-01-03

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