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WHITE OUT
Americans begin digging out as historic blizzard winds down
By Jennie MATTHEW
New York (AFP) Jan 24, 2016


Hong Kong hit by coldest temperatures in nearly 60 years
Hong Kong (AFP) Jan 24, 2016 - A cold snap gripped Hong Kong on Sunday, with residents shivering as temperatures plunged to the lowest point in nearly 60 years and frost dusted the mountaintops of a city accustomed to a subtropical climate.

Weather officials issued a frost warning saying an "intense cold surge" was in place, coupled with chilling monsoon winds.

Morning temperatures dropped to 3.3 Celsius (38 Fahrenheit) in urban areas of the southern Chinese city, where most buildings lack central heating, and below freezing on the hills.

It is the coldest weather in 59 years, senior scientific officer Wong Wai-kin told AFP.

"It is the coldest day since 1957. The daily minimum dropped to 3.3 degrees Celsius, the previous record was 2.4 degrees in February of 1957," he told AFP.

While the cold snap is by no means on the scale of the weather now affecting the US and swathes of mainland China, such temperatures are a novelty for many residents.

"It is very cold and windy over Hong Kong. People are advised to put on warm clothes and to avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds," read a note published on a city government website.

As the mercury dropped, curious residents flocked to higher ground in search of frost, according to local broadcaster Cable TV.

"It's very cold, my feet feel numb," a young visitor to Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain in Hong Kong, told the broadcaster.

Screenshots of flakes also swamped social media but weather forecasters said the precipitation was "rain with small ice pellets" rather than snow.

About 20 participants of a cross country race were sent to hospital after experiencing symptoms associated with hypothermia, according to local media.

Conditions are not expected to warm up until the middle of the week, said weather forecasters.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the coldest weather occurred in January 1893, when temperatures plunged to 0 C.

Meanwhile, the state-run People's Daily in China said on its weibo social networking account that the city of Guangzhou recorded its first snowfall since 1929.

A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down Sunday, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out.

The near-record snowstorm clobbered the eastern United States Friday and Saturday, shutting down New York and Washington and affecting some 85 million residents.

More than 4,400 flights were canceled, airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore ground to a halt, the US capital shut down transport and America's most populous city banned travel.

The 16 fatalities occurred in Arkansas, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, while more than 200,000 people were left without power and 2,200 National Guard personnel were drafted in.

Forecasters said the storm -- dubbed "Snowzilla" -- dumped 22.2 inches (56 centimeters) in Washington. The 25.1 inches of snow that fell in New York's Central Park, was the third highest accumulation since records began in 1869.

With the storm tapering off overnight, officials in New York planned to lift a travel ban at 7:00 am Sunday (1200 GMT) -- restoring access to roads throughout the city, and in Long Island and New Jersey.

"You never like to disrupt transportation and commerce. However, the storm was fast and furious," said New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Strong winds raised concerns of flooding for much of the east coast, the National Weather Service warned, with streets in some New Jersey coastal towns filled with water and ice.

But Mother Nature -- after buffeting east coast residents with one of the worst storms in years -- appeared to be in a more charitable mood Sunday, with forecasts predicting sunshine, blue sky and above-freezing temperatures to aid the snow removal.

- Parked cars buried by snow -

In New York, bus services were suspended and overland commuter and subway trains were shut as Broadway canceled performances, museums closed, shops shuttered and the region's pro sports teams rescheduled matches.

Metro and bus networks were shut down in Washington for the entire weekend, and largely shut in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Thousands of motorists were stranded for hours on highways further south.

The vast majority of flights were canceled across much of the region, but authorities said they were working around the clock to restore operations Sunday, with the first arrivals and departures expected at midday in New York.

Plows struggled to clear streets, where parked cars were buried under the snow and visibility worsened Saturday as night fell and howling winds created massive snowdrifts.

Reagan National and Dulles International airports in the US capital were expected to remain closed through Sunday.

Officials said the storm, which forecasters predicted would end by early Sunday in the Washington area, could cause more than $1 billion in damage.

Amid the hardship there was a moment of levity provided by Tian Tian, the baby panda at the National Zoo in Washington. Footage of the panda rolling in the snow quickly went viral.

- Power outages -

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican presidential contender, left the campaign trail to oversee the emergency response in his snowbound state, where he said there were 90,000 power outages.

"For folks who lose power, please, given how cold the weather is, try to go and shelter in the home of a friend or family member if you can. Don't stay in the cold," he told a news conference.

Nearly 120,000 power outages were reported in North Carolina, emergency officials said.

In Washington the national monuments, Capitol building and Smithsonian museum were all closed.

Even a massive snowball fight in Washington's Dupont Circle, which 3,000 people said on Facebook they would attend, was postponed until Sunday due to the storm's ferocity.

"We just came back from some holidays in India so the weather is a difficult adjustment," said Justin Wilcox, 32, out taking selfies in the capital.

Snow and sleet also hit the southern states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia -- unusual for the region.

burs/jm-sg/sm

American Airlines

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