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Battered US east coast digs out in time for more snow

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2010
The US east coast braced Monday for a new storm after record snowfall left thousands of people shivering in the dark without power, transportation paralyzed and the federal government shut down.

The US capital remained largely snow-locked, while many local governments, businesses and schools were also shuttered across the mid-Atlantic region.

People struggled to get to work, slipping on icy sidewalks and spinning wheels on snow-trapped smaller cars, as hundreds of emergency personnel battled to clear roads of snow.

Roofs collapsed under the weight of the white stuff, including at a firehouse in northern Virginia and a hangar for private aircraft at Dulles International Airport.

Many of those without power gathered in restaurants and coffee shops on major avenues where power often was restored first. Some residents of suburban Washington spent two days huddled at businesses, unable to go home.

Downtown Washington was not as hard hit by power outages but public transportation remained snarled.

Snow clearing crews drove in to the area from states several hours away, as did reinforcements for exhausted and overwhelmed power company crews.

Residents had little hope of respite from the icy, sometimes slushy mess, with another winter storm expected to unload on the area late Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS said in its winter storm watch that there was "potential for eight or more inches (20 cm) of snow. There is a good likelihood of snow in excess of 10 inches (25 cm)" from Tuesday afternoon overnight into Wednesday.

That would be on top of more than two feet (0.6 m) of snow already on the ground in most areas around metropolitan Washington and Baltimore. And local officials warned that snow plows might not even get to many smaller streets before the second storm hits.

"This is really challenging for us, and will continue to be a challenge for most of the week," said Laura Southard from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

With record snowfall of more than three feet (a meter) in many places across Virginia, Maryland and the US capital, bulldozers were moving in.

"This snow is so deep and so heavy that the traditional snow plows can't shovel in some areas. So bulldozers are physically having to lift it up and away," Southard told AFP.

Even though the blizzard has moved away, unmasking a bright blue sky, it continued to claim victims.

Two men were found dead in a car Sunday in the town of Bladensburg, Maryland, The Washington Post reported. Authorities believe they suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of sitting in a closed vehicle without ventilation.

Six other people who appeared to be victims of carbon monoxide poisoning were rescued Sunday at a house in the Washington suburb Oxon Hill, the paper said.

The culprit appeared to have been a gasoline generator used inside a house after the power went out.

The deepest snow left by "Snowmageddon" was in the small town of Colesville, central Maryland, which was buried in 40 inches (101 centimeters) of snow, the National Weather Service said.

Service slowly resumed to Metro trains, although above-ground rail travel remained suspended, depriving people in the suburbs of their main means of commute. Bus service was cancelled, and then began operating on a limited schedule.

Washington's Reagan National Airport was closed for snow and ice removal, and then reopened facing flight delays. Other local airports were open, but officials warned many flights may be canceled or delayed.

But life was gradually returning to normal as residents dug out cars and cleared driveways. Some stores and coffee shops reopened after a rare shutdown.

Boris Ruhadze, 24, was stuck at the International House of Pancakes in Rockville, Maryland from Friday afternoon when the storm started until Monday morning.

"We slept on the benches in some of the booths, in a part of the restaurant they closed off. The line was out the door on Friday, and even worse on Saturday as people lost power," Ruhadze said.

Several people reported having their snow shovels stolen from outside their homes.

The weekend's heavy snowfall was the second major storm to hit the region this winter after a December storm dumped some two feet (61 centimeters) of snow in the area.

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US capital begins digging out after 'Snowmageddon'
Washington (AFP) Feb 7, 2010
Residents of the US east coast began digging out from under a thick blanket of snow Sunday after a record-breaking blizzard paralyzed Washington and the region, snapping power to 350,000 residents and killing two people. The monster storm stretched more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from eastern Indiana across into New Jersey and then down as far south as North Carolina, affecting tens o ... read more

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