Major snowstorm slams northeast US, grounding flights, snarling traffic

Washington grinds to halt as bone-chilling weather keeps government workers at home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm


The northeastern US shivered amid heavy snowfall and far-below-average temperatures yesterday in a storm that grounded thousands of flights and triggered traffic chaos.

The weather stretched from Washington to New England. The Midwest was hit hard, too.

Taking into account the wind chill factor, the temperature in Chicago plummeted to minus 28 degrees Celsius, the Chicago Tribune said.

The Tuesday evening commute home in New York, the nation's largest city, was a mess, and the city was expected to get as much as 35cm of snow by yesterday morning.

"It's horrible. Snow is cute for only a little bit," Mary Catherine Hughes, standing by a subway stop with an umbrella rendered useless in fierce wind, told The New York Times. The city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, urged people to stay home.

Downtown Washington fell eerily silent after the federal government, seeing the swift-moving storm approaching, closed its doors and told civil servants, who already had the day off on Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday, to stay home on Tuesday.

Yesterday, federal agencies were to open two hours late. Employees could also take unscheduled leave, and those that could were allowed to work from home. The nation's capital is famous for cowering in the face of even a few flakes but Tuesday's storm seemed to justify a shutdown.

Most schools in the city and neighbouring Maryland and Virginia, were to remain closed yesterday.

Washington's Metro public transit system reported on Tuesday half as many riders as on a typical weekday. The storm system would strengthen overnight in the Atlantic waters off the East Coast, spreading heavy snow and strong winds into coastal sections of New England and the Northeast, the National Weather Service said.

Temperatures across the eastern part of the country yesterday were expected to be 6 to 15 degrees below average, it warned.

FlightAware, a website that monitors air traffic in real time, said nearly 3,000 flights into, out of or within the US had been cancelled on Tuesday. The lion's share of affected flights involved busy airports in the New York, Philadelphia and Washington areas.

National rail company Amtrak said it would operate "a modified schedule" yesterday on its Northeast Corridor line between Washington and Boston, as well as on two other routes in the hard-hit region.

More than 1,700 ploughs would be used in New York to clear snow, CNN reported.