Winter storm in US kills dozens; 135,000 without power

Storm heads towards Canada; Philippine storm death toll hits 11

A winter storm that has killed more than a dozen people across the eastern half of the country moved into the Northeast, trapping airliners in snow or mud and frustrating travelers still trying to return home after Christmas.

The storm, which was earlier blamed for at least 16 deaths farther south and west, brought plenty of wind, rain and snow to the Northeast on Thursday. Lights generally remained on and cars mostly stayed on the road, unlike many harder-hit places including Arkansas, where 200,000 homes and businesses lost power.
 
By Thursday afternoon, the precipitation had stopped in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts, though snow continued to fall in upstate New York and northern New England. Parts of snow-savvy New Hampshire expected as much as 18 inches (457 millimeters).
 
The Northeast's heaviest snowfall was in northern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and inland sections of several New England states. The storm was expected to head into Canada on Friday, National Weather Service spokesman David Roth said.
 
While the East Coast's largest cities — New York, Philadelphia and Boston — saw mostly high winds and cold rain, other areas experienced a messy mix of rain and snow that slowed commuters and those still heading home from holiday trips. Some inbound flights were delayed in Philadelphia and
New York's LaGuardia Airport, but the weather wasn't leading to delays at other major East Coast airports.
 
Forty-two students traveling to London and Dublin were stuck in the Nashville airport thanks to weather in the Northeast. The frustrated students, from universities in Tennessee and Kentucky, were supposed to leave Wednesday and arrive in London on Thursday.
Joe Woolley, spokesman for the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad, said he hopes he can get them there just one day late.
 
"It's a two-week program, so it's shortened already," he said.
 
On New York's Long Island, a Southwest Airlines jet bound for Tampa, Florida, veered off a taxiway and got stuck in mud Thursday morning. Officials said there were no injuries to the 129 passengers and five crew members. Though the area received heavy rain overnight, Southwest spokesman Paul Flanigan said it was unclear whether that played a role.
 
In Pittsburgh, a flight that landed safely during the storm Wednesday night got stuck in several inches of snow on the tarmac for about two hours. The American Airlines flight arrived between 8 and 9 p.m. but then ran over a snow patch and got stuck.
Earlier, the storm system spawned tornadoes on Christmas along the Gulf Coast, startling people like Bob and Sherry Sims of Mobile, Alabama, who had just finished dinner.
 
"We heard that very distinct sound, like a freight train," said Bob Sims, who lost electricity but was grateful that he fared better than neighbors whose roofs were peeled away and porches smashed by falling trees.
 
In Georgiana, Alabama, an 81-year-old man died Wednesday, a day after a tree fell on his home, emergency officials said.
 
Deaths from wind-toppled trees also were reported in Texas and Louisiana, but car crashes caused most of the fatalities. Two people were killed in Kentucky crashes, a New York man was killed after his pickup truck skidded on an icy road in northwest Pennsylvania and an Ohio teenager died after losing control of her car and smashing into an oncoming snowplow.
 
In Arkansas, where two people died in a head-on collision, some of those who lost electricity could be without it for as long as a week because of snapped poles and wires after ice and 10 inches (254 millimeters) of snow coated power lines, said the state's largest utility, Entergy Arkansas. By
Thursday evening, power to thousands of customers had been restored, but more than 135,000 homes and businesses remained in the dark, Entergy
said.
 
Farther east, the storm knocked out power to more than 7,000 homes and businesses in Maryland. In New Jersey, gusts of more than 70 mph (112.65 kph) were recorded along the coast, and the weather service issued a flood warning for some coastal areas. There were about 800 power outages in Vermont, but only a handful in neighboring New Hampshire.
 
Schools on break and workers taking holiday vacations meant that many people could avoid messy commutes, but those who had to travel were urged to avoid it.
 
Philippine storm death toll rises to 11
 
The death toll from a tropical storm that hit the central Philippines on Christmas Day has risen to 11 with thousands more forced out of their homes by landslides and flooding, officials said Friday.
 
Tropical Storm Wukong has caused new destruction just weeks after Typhoon Bopha hit the south of the country, flattening whole communities and killing more than 1,000 people.
 
Most of Wukong's victims died from drowning, while three died when a tree fell onto their home, according to the official disaster monitoring council, which added that two people remained missing.
 
It said that more than 13,000 people were in evacuation centres due to flooding and landslides caused by the latest storm, which affected the islands of Samar, Leyte Cebu and Panay.
 
But regional disaster officer Celeste Milan expressed confidence the death toll would not rise much higher as people had taken precautions, with some having evacuated their homes before the storm hit.
 
"It won't be like Bopha. This was more just rain. Bopha was a super typhoon. This (Wukong) was just a tropical depression," Milan said.
Wukong weakened as it blew out westward to the South China Sea.
 
Relief efforts are still ongoing in areas of the southern Philippines where whole towns were wiped out by Bopha, the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.
 
The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms or typhoons each year that occur mainly during the rainy season between June and October.
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