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Blizzards shut down Washington, New York

Snow shuts down UN, NY schools
New York (AFP) Feb 10, 2010 - New York schools closed and the United Nations shut down Wednesday as the nation's biggest city took cover from a snowstorm sweeping the eastern United States. All public schools closed their doors and extra shifts of snow plows were deployed to battle an expected foot (30 centimeters) of snow and gale-force gusts of wind. It was only the third school "snow day" declared in the past six years in New York. Continental Airlines said it was suspending all flights to its busy Newark hub, except for a handful of incoming international flights. It also suspended all services at LaGuardia airport, with normal routines expected to resume Thursday.

The United Nations went into weekend mode. Key officials worked from home and the corridors of the headquarters building were deserted. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was working from home, a spokesman said. "He's working from his residence. He's fully able to do everything from there. He's been placing phone calls to world leaders and he's meeting a delegation," spokesman Martin Nesirky. For Wall Street, it was business as usual. Most trading is conducted electronically. Another of the city's famous institutions -- the theatre district along Broadway -- also stood fast against the storm. "The shows will go on!" said The Broadway League, a trade group.

"Grab your snow-boots and enjoy the hot shows on Broadway -- it's a great time to get good seats," said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League. "The Great White Way is not letting the white snow outside affect the musicals and plays in its theatres." Only a light snow accumulated over Manhattan early Wednesday, but heavier falls began later in the day and were due to develop into a blizzard -- persuading city officials to cancel school. "The forecast is for a much worse situation with blowing snow and possibly blizzard conditions by mid-afternoon... and we don't want to subject students to those conditions as they travel home or to after-school programs," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Bloomberg said 4,200 Sanitation Department workers were assigned to snow duties, with garbage trucks being fitted with snow plows.

As soon as snow builds, "1,600 plows will begin removing snow from our city's roughly 6,300 miles (10,140 kilometers) of streets and highways," he said. The National Weather Service forecast that the storm, dubbed "Snoverkill" by the local media, would dump up to 14 inches (36 centimeters) of fresh snow on the mid-Atlantic region. This comes on top of the three feet (91 cm) of snow from the weekend's powerful blizzard, much of which remains on the ground. Federal government offices in the US capital closed Wednesday for the third straight day -- a first since 1996 -- while local schools prepared to remain closed until next week.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 10, 2010
Blizzards and icy winds paralyzed the northeastern United States on Wednesday, shutting down federal government for a third day and spreading Washington's misery north to New York and Boston.

The latest falls made 2009-2010 the snowiest winter on record for the capital and brought conditions so perilous that people were banned from driving in the nearby city of Baltimore.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered schools closed for a rare "snow day" and the United Nations headquarters were also shuttered, but the worst of the weather was initially further south in snow-weary Washington.

Residents had barely dug themselves out from an avalanche of weekend snow when fresh blizzards struck, this time with Arctic winds of up to 55 miles (88 kilometers) per hour that made even the shortest trip hazardous.

"I urge all residents to heed the warnings of local officials and prioritize safety by staying off the roads unless absolutely necessary," Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

One person was killed and another injured in a pile-up in central Pennsylvania, but most people heeded official advice to stay indoors and avoid driving.

"You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road," warned Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

All flights from Washington airports were suspended and airlines operating out of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago reported cancellations and delays.

"Storm total snowfall of 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeters)... with highest totals north and east of Baltimore. Drifts three to six feet (90 to 180 centimeters)," read the latest bulletin from the National Weather Service.

Residents in Maryland and Virginia and the capital Washington faced more long days trying to entertain stir-crazy kids, some families still battling without power almost a week after the first storm barreled in.

"It's not easy to be cooped up inside with children because they can't go outside," Virginia resident Maria Abousleiman told AFP. "Right now, it's particularly difficult.

"They can't even go outside and enjoy the snow because it's too windy and very cold. The roads are plowed but in our area, it's really bad because they only plowed once. Our street isn't given priority because it's a smaller street."

Some snow plows in Baltimore were diverted to the port to pick up emergency shipments of salt to grit roads before they became treacherously icy.

"We just got a national weather alert saying that the conditions are life-threatening out on the streets so we've gone into phase three," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

"That means only city-authorized emergency vehicles are allowed to be on the city roadways," she told CNN, describing it as the worst two-day blizzard to strike the area since 1922 and threatening fines to offenders.

Initially dubbed "Snowmageddon" by the local media, the humor has darkened as the novelty of the winter storms has worn off. The latest monikers used by Washingtonians are "Snoverkill" and "Say it ain't Snow."

"Shoveling is no fun," said Abousleiman, who had stocked up on groceries for a whole week in case she couldn't get out. "You have to keep shoveling because otherwise it piles up and gets harder and harder. It's very cold.

"Every time my husband tried to get out, the car was stuck. Every time you try to go out, there's an issue on the road, either a car stuck or one you have to push."

Federal government offices in the US capital were closed for the third straight day -- the first time that has happened in more than a decade -- while fresh snow piled up on three feet of weekend dumps.

Most of the 230,000 federal employees in the Washington area were off work, costing an estimated 100 million dollars a day in lost productivity.

At the White House, where President Barack Obama had no public appearances planned, ghostly silhouettes could be made out on the roof clearing packs of snow to prevent dangerous accumulation.

The premises were largely deserted, although some offices remained open and operational. Secret Service personnel abandoned their usual posts to hunker down in their cars.

Washington, Virginia and Maryland have all declared emergencies, allowing them to mobilize the National Guard. Maryland was already relying on National Guard humvees to help out and answer some emergency calls.

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Fresh snow misery hits eastern US
Washington (AFP) Feb 9, 2010
A major snowstorm pummeled the United States Tuesday from Illinois to Virginia and New York, nearing all-time winter records after an epic weekend blizzard paralyzed Washington and much of the east coast. Federal government offices in the capital will be closed Wednesday for the third straight day, while local schools prepared to remain closed until next week as the National Weather Service ... read more

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