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Freak US snowstorm kills eight and leaves millions without power

31 October 2011 10:57 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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More than 3.2m homes and businesses across the north-east US have been left without power after a freak snowstorm killed at least eight people and disrupted transport across the region.

From Maryland to Maine, officials said it would take days to restore electricity, even though the snowfall ended on Sunday.

The storm smashed record snowfall totals for October and worsened as it moved north. Communities in western Massachusetts were among the hardest hit. Snowfall topped 68.6cm (27in) in Plainfield, and 66cm in nearby Windsor.

The storm was blamed for at least six deaths, and states of emergency were declared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York.

Roads and railways were blocked and flights cancelled, with passengers on a JetBlue flight stuck on a plane in Hartford, Connecticut, for more than seven hours on Saturday.

More than 800,000 customers were without electricity in Connecticut alone – shattering the record set in August by Hurricane Irene. Massachusetts and New Jersey each suffered more than 600,000 power cuts. Parts of Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland and Vermont also were without power.

"It's going to be a more difficult situation than we experienced in Irene," Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy said. "We are expecting extensive and long-term power outages."

Thirty-two shelters were open around the state, and Malloy asked volunteer fire departments to allow people in for warmth and showers. At least four hospitals were relying on generators for power.

In Newtown in western Connecticut, trees were so laden with snow on some back roads that branches touched the street and regularly snapped. Plowed roads became impassible because the trees were falling so fast.

The National Weather Service said the snowstorm "absolutely crushed previous records that in some cases dated back more than 100 years". Saturday was only the fourth snowy October day in New York's Central Park since record-keeping began 135 years ago.

There usually is not enough cold air in the region to support a snowstorm this time of year, but an area of high pressure over south-eastern Canada funnelled cold air south into the US, the service said. That cold air combined with moisture coming from the North Carolina coast to produce the unseasonable weather.


A car is crushed by a snow-laden tree in Worcester, Massachusetts, after freak snowstorms across the north-east US Photograph: Adam Hunger / Reuters
The JetBlue passengers stranded at Hartford's Bradley international airport were on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Newark, New Jersey, that had been diverted. Passenger Andrew Carter, an American football reporter for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, said the plane ran out of snacks and bottled water, and the toilets backed up.

JetBlue said power outages at the airport had made it difficult to get passengers off the plane, and added that the passengers would be reimbursed.

There were other flight delays in the region over the weekend, and commuter trains in Connecticut and New York were delayed or suspended because of fallen trees and signal problems. Amtrak suspended passenger train services on several north-eastern routes, and one train from Chicago to Boston got stuck overnight in Palmer, Massachusetts. The 48 passengers had food and heat, a spokeswoman said, and they were taken by bus on Sunday to their destinations.

In south-eastern Pennsylvania, an 84-year-old man was killed when a snow-laden tree fell on his home. In Connecticut, the governor said one person died in a traffic accident that he blamed on slippery conditions.

A 20-year-old man in Springfield, Massachusetts, stopped when he saw police and fire-fighters examining downed wires and stepped in the wrong place and was electrocuted.

Occupy Wall Street protesters camping at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, New York city, remained stoic, however. Nick Lemmin, of Brooklyn, spent his first night at Zuccotti in a sleeping bag in a tent, wearing thermals, a sweatshirt and a scarf.

"I slept actually pretty well," he said. "It was pretty quiet." (Source: The Guardian)

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  Comments - 3

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  • KD Tuesday, 01 November 2011 02:40 AM

    Should we continue to live in dark ages, blame unknown gods when something bad happens?

    ajith Monday, 31 October 2011 11:52 AM

    The nature too behaves bad for bad rulers.

    Wara Monday, 31 October 2011 01:56 PM

    Thanks mother nature.


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