Washington, New York snowed in, shutters government

By Arun Kumar,IANS,

Washington/New York : Denizens of Washington Wednesday woke up to an eerie ghost town as the fourth powerful snow storm of the season buried the capital of the world’s most powerful nation, already groaning under the weight of weekend’s historic blizzard, under a thick white blanket.

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As the new blizzard that began Tuesday afternoon picked up pace threatening to dump another 10 to 20 inches of snow over Washington, northern Virginia and eastern Maryland, the federal government remained shuttered for the third consecutive day.

Congressional hearings on the Capitol Hill were cancelled and some schools decided to stay closed until next week as the gale force winds threatened to topple trees and take down power lines across the beleaguered region.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and airlines were waiting to see whether they would have to cancel more. No flights were expected to be operating Wednesday at Reagan National Airport or at Washington Dulles International, the Washington Airports Authority said.

In last weekend’s blizzard a record 32.4 inches of snow fell on Washington’s Dulles International Airport over two days, breaking the January 7-8, 1996, record of 23.2 inches.

Unlike the weekend blizzard that walloped only Washington and surrounding areas, the new storm, the fourth major snowfall to wallop the region in slightly more than seven weeks, threatened to leave heavy snows across several states.

In New York, the powerful snowstorm led to the closure of United Nations as starting with light snow Tuesday night “the thick, wet flakes started sticking, even in places where snow almost never accumulates, like Times Square” by Wednesday morning as the New York Times put it.

“It’s here,” it cited Brian Ciemnecki, a forecaster with the National Weather Service as saying. He said that New York would see 12 to 15 inches, a lot, but less than piled up in places farther south during the storm last week.

New York had ploughed most major roadways overnight, and transit agencies reported that trains and buses began the day on schedule, the Times said. But officials hoped many people would simply stay home, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took the rare step of ordering schools closed on Wednesday.

Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia will all see significant accumulations as will the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and southern New England, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s just what Mother Nature is doing this year,” ABC cited Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Spring, Maryland as saying. “There is really no rhyme or reason to it.”

Baltimore, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey are forecast to get the most from this storm, up to 18 inches in some places, he said. There’s a wide path from Washington, through New York City, across Long Island and up through Connecticut and Rhode Island that will see the brunt of the storm.

Ohio could see 4 to 8 inches of snow, and the Tennessee valley could see up to 10 inches. Chicago will probably see “a few” inches, but nothing like the east coast.