February 12, 2006

Northeastern United States hammered by snowstorm

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - The biggest snowstorm of the season
belted the northeastern United States on Sunday, sinking New
York City in its second-deepest snow on record, shutting
airports, snarling traffic and bringing joy to ski resorts.

As much as 24.8 inches of snow fell in New York's Central
Park, only two inches shy of the city's worst blizzard on
December 26, 1947, which killed 77 people, according to the
National Weather Service and city archives.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a very dangerous, big
storm," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news
conference. "This could be one for the record books."

Whiteout conditions delayed flights and trains and shut
airports from Boston to New Jersey and Washington D.C., the
Federal Aviation Administration and Amtrak rail service 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

Some 70,000 homes were without power in the Washington area
and another 70,000 were without power in the Baltimore area.
The numbers had not 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.

The National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings and
forecast wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) with sustained
winds of 25-30 mph in many Northeast regions.

"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."

Major roads and highways were mostly open and passable but
still covered with snow. "The driving conditions are very
difficult out there. There are a lot of spinouts, minor
crashes," said Tom Ryan of the Massachusetts State Police.

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri declared a state of
emergency to keep roads free for emergency vehicles as
residents shoveled out cars and cleared paths from their homes
and driveways with snow blowers.

"We had such a warm January, above normal," said T.J.
Saotome, a 40-year-old from Bristol, Rhode Island, "but you
know what? I've lived in New England long enough to know there
would be a payback."

Several international airports were closed, including New
York's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airport, and New Jersey's
Newark International. Other airports including Boston's Logan
reported delays and dozens of canceled flights.

It was the first time LaGuardia Airport in New York had
closed in five years.

(Additional reporting by Chris Michaud in New York and
Richard C. Lewis in Rhode Island)