U.S. Northeast digs out from blizzard; new storm brews in Plains

CAMBRIDGE, Mass./NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – The U.S. Northeast started digging itself out today after a blizzard dumped up to 40 inches (1 meter) of snow with hurricane force winds, killing at least nine people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

New York City trucks plowed through residential streets, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of motorists to dig their buried vehicles out from mountains of snow.

“I give up,” Giovanni Marchenna, 52, of Manhattan said with a laugh.

“Looks like I’ll be taking the subway to work until the snow melts,” he added, noting he spent more than an hour shoveling snow.

Utility companies reported that some 350,000 customers were still without electricity across nine states after the wet, heavy snow brought down tree branches and power lines. About 700,000 homes and businesses were without power at one point on Saturday.

Air traffic began to return to normal on Sunday after some 5,800 flights were canceled on Friday and Saturday, according to Flightaware, a flight tracking service.

Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and New York state’s Long Island MacArthur Airport reopened on Sunday morning. Both had been closed on Saturday.

Boston’s Logan International Airport reopened late on Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Rare travel bans in Connecticut and Massachusetts were lifted but roads throughout the region remained treacherous, according to state transportation departments.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, residents were digging out their cars and driveways under clear blue skies on Sunday afternoon.

Charles Damico, a retired electrical engineer who was clearing his driveway with a snowblower, said the snow was “nothing” compared to the amount he remembers falling during the blizzard of 1978 that dumped between 2 and 4 feet (60 and 122 cm) of snow on the region.

“I didn’t have a snowblower at that time, so everything was done by hand,” he said. “This is nothing compared to it.”

As the region recovered, another large winter storm building across the Northern Plains was expected to leave a foot (30 cm)of snow and bring high winds from Colorado to central Minnesota into Monday, the National Weather Service said.

FRESH STORM BREWING

South Dakota was expected to be hardest hit, with winds reaching 50 miles per hour (80 kph), creating white-out conditions. The storm was expected to reach parts of Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

South Dakota officials closed a 150-mile (240-km) stretch of Interstate 90 in the center of the state. They also closed 75 miles (120 km) of Interstate 29 in the state’s northeastern corner near North Dakota.

Officials said motels and other facilities along Interstate 90 were filling up with travelers trying to avoid the heavy drifting and near-zero visibility.

“Travel will be difficult to impossible at times on other highways in many areas of South Dakota,” state transportation officials said in a statement.

Friday and Saturday’s mammoth storm stretched from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and covered several spots in the Northeast with more than 3 feet (91 cm) of snow. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts took the brunt of the blizzard.

Hamden, Connecticut, had 40 inches (101 cm) and nearby Milford 38 inches (96.5 cm), the National Weather Service said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that 675 pieces of equipment and 975 personnel had been dispatched to help Suffolk County, making up the eastern half of Long Island, dig out of 3 feet of snow.

“Suffolk County has not seen a winter storm like Nemo in years, and the massive amount of snow left behind effectively shut down the entire region,” Cuomo said in a statement, referring to the Weather Channel’s name for the storm.

SOME TRANSIT STILL SUSPENDED

Amtrak said it planned to run a limited service between New York and Boston on Sunday and a regular Sunday schedule from New York to the state capital in Albany.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said it planned to resume limited service on Sunday afternoon.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and Connecticut Transit said service would remain suspended on Sunday.

Stratford, Connecticut, Mayor John Harkins told WTNH television on Saturday that snow had fallen at a rate of 6 inches (15 cm) an hour and even plows were getting stuck.

The storm dropped 31.9 inches (81 cm) of snow on Portland, Maine, breaking a 1979 record, the weather service said. Winds gusted to 83 miles per hour (134 kph) at Cuttyhunk, New York, and brought down trees across the region.

The storm contributed to at least five deaths in Connecticut and two each in New York state and Boston, authorities said. A motorist in New Hampshire also died when he went off a road but authorities said his health may have been a factor in the crash.

The two deaths in Boston were separate incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning in cars, an 11-year-old boy and a man in his early 20s. The boy had climbed into the family car to keep warm while his father cleared snow. The engine was running but the exhaust was blocked, said authorities.

There were also road rescues along the Long Island Expressway from Friday night to Saturday morning, some using snowmobiles. A baby girl was delivered early on Saturday by emergency services personnel in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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