US Northeast digs out of blizzard as brutal cold bears down

Faith Castro
January 7, 2018

A giant winter "bomb cyclone" walloped the US East Coast on Thursday with freezing cold and heavy snow, forcing thousands of flight cancellations and widespread school closures - and even prompting the US Senate to cancel votes for the rest of the week.Millions of Americans faced potential power outages in bitterly cold sub-freezing temperatures, with some 45,000 people in Virginia and thousands more in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida already affected.

High winds and heavy snow have barrelled into the U.S. northeast, shutting schools and government offices, leaving tens of thousands without power and snarling travel as New York's JFK Airport halted flights due to whiteout conditions.

Commuters who braved the storm in the morning anxious that they could be stranded during the storm's peak expected later in the day.

Schools were ordered closed in New York City, many parts of New Jersey, Boston and elsewhere throughout the region.

Blizzard warnings were in effect along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine.

Blizzard warnings were in place along the coast from North Carolina to ME, with the National Weather Service forecasting winds as high as 115km/h that may bring down tree limbs and knock out power.

The Boston area received 30cm of snow, with more on the way, according to the US National Weather Service.

From Baltimore to Caribou, Maine efforts were underway to clear roadways of ice and snow as wind chill temperatures were to plunge during the day, reaching -40 F (-40 C) in some parts after sundown, according to the National Weather Service.

High tides also caused flooding in parts of coastal MA, with seawater rising near buildings, including a hotel and along Boston's historic Long Wharf, a popular tourist attraction. Boston Fire Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The phenomenon occurs when a storm's barometric pressure drops by 24 millibars in 24 hours.

MBTAA powerful winter storm brought snow and flooding to Boston Jan. 4 2018
MBTAA powerful winter storm brought snow and flooding to Boston Jan. 4 2018

The cold has been blamed for at least nine deaths over the past few days, including those of two homeless people in Houston.

Two flights between Dublin and the USA have been cancelled so far today as a result of weather.

A significant number of flights have been grounded, with 20% at John F. Kennedy International Airport cancelled, according to Flight Aware.

Passenger train operator Amtrak ran reduced service in the Northeast.

Almost 500 members of the National Guard were activated along the East Coast to assist with emergency response, including 200 in NY state, the US Department of Defense said in a statement.

"We can handle snow", New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference. Frozen switches and high winds interfere with above-ground train operations, he said. "If I didn'€™t, I probably would have stayed home", Ann Gillard, 24, said as she waited for a subway in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to take her into the downtown Boston office where she works as a consultant.

The storm's impact extended to eastern Canada.

That raised fears that people would be left without power and heat tomorrow and during the weekend when temperatures are forecast to drop sharply.

"Due to strong wind gusts, any power outages are expected to be prolonged because bucket trucks can not withstand the winds", Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters.

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