February 12, 2006

Northeastern US hammered by snowstorm

BOSTON (Reuters) - A powerful snowstorm belted the
northeastern United States on Sunday with flashes of lightning
and whiteout conditions, forcing airports to close, snarling
traffic and bringing joy to New England's ski resorts.

As much as 22.8 inches of snow fell in New York's central
park, the second heaviest snowfall on record, topped only by a
blizzard in 1947, said the National Weather Service.

"It is quite a storm," said Brian Ciemnecki, a
meteorologist at the National Weather Service's New York
bureau. "And it's still going on. In some areas we're seeing
snow fall at a rate of 10 inches in two hours."

Whiteout conditions shut airports from Boston to New Jersey
and Washington D.C., the Federal Aviation Administration said,
as the storm churned up the northeast coast from Virginia to
Maine. Flakes of snow were reported as far south as Tennessee.

"The snow is beautiful," said Gary Aichholz, manager of
Magic Mountain, a ski resort in Londonderry, Vermont, which
like other ski mountains across New England had suffered from
unseasonably warm weather and scarce snowfall.

"I think this will get people back in the spirit of winter
and skiing," he said.

As much as 21.3 inches (54.1) had fallen in Columbia,
Maryland and 19 inches in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, according to

The National Weather Service forecast wind gusts of up to
50 mph (31 kph) reported sustained winds of 25-30 mph in many
Northeast regions.

Some 70,000 homes were without power in the Washington area
and another 70,000 were without power in the Baltimore area.
The numbers hadn't been fully tabulated in other areas but at
least 10,000 homes were without power in New Jersey and another
3,200 in Long Island, according to media reports.