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Massive winter storm grounds 1,200 US flights
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) March 5, 2013


Four climbers killed in French Alps avalanche
Gap, France (AFP) March 05, 2013 - Four mountain climbers were killed Tuesday in an avalanche in the French Alps, local officials said.

The four, whose identities and nationalities were not immediately known, were climbing with a guide, who survived and contacted rescuers about the avalanche around 3:00 pm (1400 GMT), local officials said.

They had been climbing in the Goulotte des Enfers, an icy chute at a height of about 2,600 metres (8,530 feet).

Russia searches for six teens missing in avalanche
Moscow (AFP) March 05, 2013 - Russia sent more than 160 rescuers to a remote Siberian mountainside on Tuesday in a frantic hunt for six teenage boys who are feared dead after being trapped by an avalanche.

The search with sniffer dogs was however hampered by bad weather and the risk of further avalanches, the emergency situations ministry said.

The boys aged 14 to 18 were overtaken by the avalanche Sunday as they descended the Ak-Bashtyg mountain in the Tyva region of southern Siberia, the central Investigative Committee said.

One member of the group, junior kickboxing champion Anton Salchak, 17, escaped and was able to raise the alarm.

"We have searched 700 square metres but so far with no result," the head of the Siberia's emergency situations centre, Vladimir Svetelsky, told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The peak is one of the highest in the region at 3,250 metres (10,662 feet).

Sholban Kara-ool, leader of the sparsely populated Buddhist region of Tyva that borders Mongolia, travelled to the scene Tuesday.

"The chances of success in such conditions are small, but we are not losing hope. We will do everything possible to save the children," the region's deputy leader, Vitaly Bartyna-Sady, said Monday.

A massive winter storm pounding the northern United States grounded over 1,200 flights, closed hundreds of schools and made roadways and highways impassible Tuesday.

More than a dozen states from Minnesota to Virginia were in the path of the huge storm which had already dumped as much as two feet (60 centimeters) of snow in Montana and 15 inches (38 centimeters) in North Dakota.

Emergency crews recovered the body of a truck driver whose rig slipped off a Wisconsin highway and ended up in a river and were searching for his passenger Tuesday, WQOW news reported.

Minnesota's highway patrol responded to 122 crashes and 112 vehicles that had spun off the road between 5 am and 10:40 am, but luckily there were no fatalities and just 16 injuries, KARE news reported.

The heavily populated Chicago area was expected to get as much of an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow an hour during the evening rush, the National Weather Service said.

Hundreds of plows were working the Windy City's roads and freeways but with up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow expected, there was no way they could keep up.

"Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous," the weather service warned. "Consider only traveling if in an emergency."

More than 800 flights were grounded at Chicago's O'Hare airport -- a major hub -- while another 240 were cancelled at Chicago Midway. Over 100 flights were cancelled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, according to FlightAware.

The storm was expected to hit the nation's capitol late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and some Congressional meetings were already being cancelled in Washington.

"We think the system will develop into a more powerful storm as it passes into the mid Atlantic states," Dan Petersen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told AFP.

"This could be a heavy, wet snow so there could be tree branches and power lines brought down."

The storm will merge with a second system over the Appalachians Tuesday night and also pull moisture off the Atlantic.

Washington will get a slushy mix of rain and about four to eight inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of snow, which could create gridlock if it ends up hitting during the evening or morning commutes.

The comparatively balmy city's residents are not as well prepared for driving on snow, slush and ice as those in northern areas like Chicago and New England, said Petersen, who works at the weather service headquarters in Washington.

"People forget their winter weather driving skills," Petersen told AFP.

"We've had people get frustrated and just leave their cars on the road, creating an obstacle."

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