WASHINGTON: A deadly winter storm paralyzed much of the eastern United States on Tuesday, snarling transit and shutting down federal offices in Washington, and forecasters warned of the worst cold in two decades from another arctic front this week.
The storm dumped snow and spread ice from New England into the Carolinas after battering the Midwest and Ohio Valley. Temperatures plunged to -34 Celsius in Saranac Lake, New York, according to the National Weather Service.
States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. The federal government shut down after about 13 cm of snow fell in Washington, and schools were canceled throughout the area and in much of North Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory urged residents to stay off ice-covered roads. A 19-year-old woman died late on Monday after losing control of her vehicle on a slick road in Hertford County, he said.
“The extended low temperatures, which is very rare for this area, and black ice will make this a very dangerous situation for several days,” McCrory said at a news conference.
Authorities in Tennessee reported at least three weather-related highway deaths. Police worked through the night to clear a 19-km backup of vehicles on icy Interstate 40 west of Nashville.
Airlines canceled about 1,400 US flights, with thehardest-hit airports in North Carolina and Tennessee and at Washington. Commuter train service in northern Virginia was halted, and bus service in Washington shut down until mid-morning.
“It was bad at first,” said Washington snowplow driver Calvin Taylor, 35, who started a 12-hour shift at 3 am, local time, “But it feels like it’s getting a little warmer, so it’s clearing up.”
About 28 cm of snow fell near Richmond, Virginia, and state police reported 825 accidents in 12 hours. Two troopers were injured when their cars were struck by other vehicles.
At least 150,000 customers were without power in Tennessee and the Carolinas, according to state officials and Duke Energy.
Another frigid front gathering over the Great Lakes and northern Great Plains is forecast to sweep to the eastern US coast by Friday, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
Temperatures in the Middle Atlantic states on Friday could reach lows not seen since the mid-1990s, or up to 17 degrees Celsius below normal, he said.