Some 3,000 flights were grounded in the US northeast on Tuesday after a winter storm slammed the region, shutting down governments and schools and making travel a potential nightmare for millions.
States across the northeast declared emergencies and warned residents not to travel during the fast-moving storm, which packed a potentially lethal combination of heavy snow and strong winds, backed by temperatures up to 30°F (17°C) below normal.
The storm could dump as much as a foot of snow on southern New England and will likely affect millions of travellers along the I-95 highway corridor from Boston to Washington DC, as well as grounding some 3,000 flights.
"Behind this system is a lot of strong winds, [with] very cold, bitter temperatures, so this snow is going to be around for a while," said Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
Sullivan warned that stranded travellers faced potential frostbite or worse. "That's the risk you take if you travel in this kind of weather," he said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – who is struggling to contain two potentially devastating scandals surrounding his administration – declared a state of emergency just hours after he was sworn into a second term. Christie's inauguration party on Ellis Island in New York Harbor was cancelled because of the looming storm.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who scored brownie points just days into his first term when he successfully steered the city through its first winter storm earlier this month, warned residents not to go out unless absolutely necessary, as slow-moving traffic choked streets across the city.
People should stay home in the maximum event possible,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “If you need to go out, you should stay out as briefly as possible.”
School and office closures
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers in Washington were ordered to stay at home while city schools and offices were also shut down and the White House press briefing called off.
But the Supreme Court remained open to hear cases, and organisers of the annual anti-abortion "March for Life" said Wednesday's rally would go on regardless of the conditions.
In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick postponed his annual state of the state address because of the weather.
State governments in Delaware and Maryland shut down and Connecticut sent nonessential state workers home beginning at 3 pm local time. The Maryland Transit Administration cut back rail and bus services.
Some schools in North Carolina closed early, and schools were shut across Virginia and West Virginia. Connecticut closed all its schools for Wednesday, and Hartford, the state capital, sent students home early on Tuesday.
US forecaster AccuWeather said the cold front would see temperatures below freezing (-°18C) as far south as northern Florida.
While the polar front grips the east of the country, the western half will see above-average temperatures as a drought worsens, the National Weather Service said.
Sullivan, the meteorologist, said the cold snap in the east would be followed by two more polar fronts over the weekend. One would hit the Great Lakes region, and the other the upper Great Plains, he said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-22