Dangerous cold sets in as heavy snow blankets US; deaths reported
People across the northeastern United States on Friday dug out after a heavy snowfall that grounded thousands of flights, closed schools and government offices, caused several deaths and left the region in the grip of bitter cold.
Boston was hard hit by the first major winter storm of 2014, getting nearly 18 inches (45 cm) of snow, while some towns north of New England's largest city saw close to 2 feet (60 cm) of accumulation.
Major cities from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Maine, were slammed, with New York's Manhattan Island getting 6 inches (15 cm) of snow and parts of Queens seeing more than 10 inches (26 cm) of fresh powder.
While plows made easy work of the powdery snow to clear roads and runways, authorities warned residents to expect unusually cold weather across the Midwest and Northeast.
Embarrass, Minnesota, notched a reading of minus 36 Fahrenheit (minus 38 Celsius) that stood as the lowest temperature recorded in the United States outside Alaska on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
"Temperatures tonight and tomorrow are expected to be extremely low, and dangerously so," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said. "These are dangerous conditions."
The forecast overnight low for Boston was minus 4F (minus 20C) while New York looked for a low of 3F (minus 16C).
New York City's Department of Homeless Services went to "code blue," doubling the number of vans patrolling streets to seek people who needed shelter and streamlining the check-in process for homeless shelters.
Several deaths reported
Washington received more than 2 inches (5 cm) of snow, Philadelphia roughly 5 inches (13 cm) and Hartford 7 inches (18 cm). (U.S. snowfall: https://link.reuters.com/zym75v)
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, Tom Klein took a break from shoveling and said that a life in New England had accustomed him to harsh winter weather.
"I love a good snowstorm," the 60-year-old co-owner of a small manufacturing company said. "I don't mind shoveling. I've never minded shoveling."
Some 3,467 flights were canceled on Friday across the United States and 12,394 were delayed with Philadelphia and Newark airports hardest hit, according to FlightAware.com.
Airports across the region warned travelers to expect residual delays as they cleared a backlog of flights.
"We now have all our airfields - runways and taxiways - clear," said Ed Freni, aviation director for Boston's Logan International Airport. "We will be back to normal operations by tomorrow."
The weather was a factor in several deaths.
Police recovered the body of a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease who had wandered out in the rural western New York State town of Byron on Thursday night, improperly dressed for the single-digit temperatures, according to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
A Philadelphia city worker was killed after a machine he was using was crushed by a mound of rock salt, media said.
DE BLASIO DIGS OUT
New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, started his day shoveling the walk in front of his Brooklyn brownstone - a task his wife had said their 16-year-old son Dante would handle. Dante turned up later, not being an early riser, his father said at a briefing.
Asked what grade he would give his teenaged son, de Blasio said: "I give Dante an A for effort and a D for punctuality."
In Washington, the Office of Personnel Management told hundreds of thousands of federal workers they could work from home or take a leave because of the storm. The United Nations in New York and federal courts in New York, New Jersey, and Boston shut down. Schools closed across much of the region.
A Wayne, New Jersey, man was rescued Friday afternoon after falling through the ice at Ramapo Lake, where he was snowshoeing in an area frequented by hikers and mountain bikers, state officials said.
The Oakland Police Department dive rescue team pulled the man to safety and resuscitated 34-year-old Guncel Karadogan, who was talking and lucid as he was taken to a local hospital, where there was no immediate word on his condition.
And in Monmouth, New Jersey, fire officials said the driver of a mail truck and two people in another vehicle were rescued from flood waters in separate incidents after the Shrewsbury River flooded during high tide late Friday morning.
One victim was transported to Monmouth Medical Center. However, a spokesperson could not release any information on that victim.
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, the temperature plummeted to -18 degrees Fahrenheit (-28 C) on Friday, breaking a record for the date set in 1979, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite the frigid forecast predicted for the end of the weekend, Green Bay Packers fans bought the remaining 40,000 tickets this week for their team's National Football League playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
The NFL threatened to prohibit local TV from airing the game if the team was unable to sell out the game in Lambeau Field, where diehard fans will brave the temperatures expected reach 0F (minus 18C) during the game.
EARLIER STORY: Emergency declared in NY, NJ; 2,500 flights cancelled, 7,000 delayed
The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency and pleaded with residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a major snowstorm bore down on the northeastern United States, delaying or canceling thousands of flights.
The first major winter storm of 2014 brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with parts of New England, including Boston, bracing for up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow by Friday morning.
"As this winter storm unfolds, bringing heavy snow and high winds to many parts of the state, I strongly urge all New Yorkers to exercise caution, avoid travel and stay indoors," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Amid flight cancellations that hit just as many travelers were returning from holiday breaks, officials at Boston's Logan International Airport said that up to a quarter of its scheduled flights had been canceled on Thursday afternoon and evening.
But Ed Freni, aviation director of Massport, the state agency that operates Logan, said that two runways remained open and that he expected the airport to continue operating as long as it was safe to do so.
Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie both ordered state offices closed on Friday for non-essential employees, saying they expected the worst to hit between late Thursday and early Friday morning. The state of New Jersey said public schools would be closed in Hoboken and Jersey City on Friday.
"The real action is going to get cranked up this evening and during the overnight hours. We'll have heavy snow, windy conditions, reduced visibilities," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
DE BLASIO'S BIG TEST
The storm posed the first major challenge to New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio. Problems from digging out from snowstorms have been political havoc for mayors in the United States' biggest city for decades.
After his first emergency management meeting, De Blasio pleaded with New Yorkers stay off the streets.
"This is the first of many times I will say please stay indoors. Stay out of your cars. If you don't need to go out, please don't go out," he said.
The powerful storm forced cancellation of nearly 2,500 U.S. flights with another 7,000 delayed. Chicago's O'Hare International and Newark's Liberty International Airport were hit the worst, according to FlightAware, a website that tracks air travel.
New York's three major airports were preparing to accommodate stranded travelers whose flights were canceled.
"We have a few hundred cots at each of the airports should you decide to become an overnight guest," said Thomas Bosco, an official with the Port Authority of New York and Jersey, at New York's LaGuardia Airport. The authority also runs Newark and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Ruben Raskin of San Jose, California, who was in the Boston area visiting his girlfriend, worried that his Friday flight out of Logan could be delayed or canceled.
"It kind of reminds me why I moved to San Jose after going to college out here," said Raskin, 23.
Conditions in Boston were bad enough by afternoon that the "Frozen Fenway" winter carnival, featuring sledding and college ice-hockey at the baseball stadium where the Red Sox play, was canceled for Thursday and Friday.
TEMPERATURES TO PLUMMET
The weather service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to levels 20 to 30 degrees below normal, with record lows possible on Friday.
"Temperatures are expected to plummet tonight and tomorrow with wind chills dropping as low as 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-32 Celsius)," said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. "That is a very dangerous set of circumstances."
The low temperature in the contiguous United States on Wednesday was -47 Fahrenheit (-43 Celsius), reached in Van Buren, Maine, and tied in Babbitt and Embarrass, Minnesota, the weather service said.
Patrick told non-essential state workers to head home at 3 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) as did his counterparts in neighboring Connecticut.
Forecast snowfall varied widely, with Washington expected to see under an inch (2 cm), Philadelphia and New York 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm), Hartford 6 to 10 inches (15-25 cm) and Boston 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm).
But even before the worst of the storm hit slippery road conditions made driving a hazard in many storm-hit areas.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Chris Behm spent an hour trying to reach the vocational training center for developmentally disabled people where he works before calling the commute off and urging his 19 employees to stay home.
"It was terrible on all of the roads and there is more weather on its way," Behm said. "It just wasn't worth it to open and possibly kill someone."
Officials in Boston and Providence said schools would be closed on Friday, and in other districts throughout the region, parents were bracing for the possibility their children would be home on Friday.
"It's tough with these storms because I end up using days off that I don't want to take," said Kristen Carson, who had taken the train into Manhattan from her home in suburban Montclair, New Jersey. "After the holiday, it's really kind of a pinch."
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