2nd major storm in a week howls up the East Coast, spreading misery from Baltimore to New York

By Nafeesa Syeed, AP
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Storm pounds snowbound Mid-Atlantic, East Coast

WASHINGTON — A blizzard howled up the East Coast on Wednesday, making roads from Baltimore to New York City so treacherous that even plow drivers pulled over and bringing more misery to a Mid-Atlantic region having the snowiest winter on record.

In Pennsylvania, the governor closed large stretches of major highways because the second major storm in less than a week was making travel too risky. Crashes closed nine miles of Interstate 80 and sent 17 people to the hospital, none with serious injuries.

In Washington, snow fell so hard that people on the National Mall could not see the Capitol. Many in the region were still without power from the historic storm over the weekend, and even more were expected to lose it during this one.

“The snow has just been relentless,” said Washington Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, a D.C. native who said the back-to-back storms are like nothing he has ever experienced. “It doesn’t seem like we’re getting much of a break.”

Up to 16 inches fell in parts of western Maryland and Reagan National Airport in Washington had more than 9 inches by midday, making it the snowiest winter on record in D.C. That was on top of totals up to 3 feet in some places from the weekend storm. And it was still snowing.

The streets of downtown Philadelphia, also hard hit by the last storm, were nearly vacant as people heeded the mayor’s advice to stay home.

Entrance ramps to closed highways were blockaded and the Pennsylvania National Guard had Humvees stocked with food and blankets ready to help anyone who got stuck.

“For your safety, do not drive,” Gov. Ed Rendell said. “You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road.”

In Arlington, Va., streets that had been packed with people playing in the snow over the weekend were also empty.

“I’ve seen enough,” said Bill Daly, 57, as gusts of wind and snow lashed his face. “It’s scary and beautiful at the same time. I wanted to shovel but thought if I had a heart attack it could be a while before anybody found me in this kind of weather.”

In Washington, the federal government was closed for a third straight day. The longest weather-related government shutdown ever was in 1996, when employees did not have to go to work for a full week.

In northwest Washington, a Caribou Coffee was standing room only. Most people pecked away at laptop computers as snow fell steadily outside.

“Can’t get to the office but the work still needs to get done,” said attorney Christopher Erckert. “I feel sorry for the city administrators who are trying to deal with all the practicalities of it.”

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings Wednesday that extended into New York City, where 10 to 16 inches could fall. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights at airports on the Eastern seaboard and schools in New York City were closed, only the third snow day in six years for the district’s 1.1 million students. D.C.’s two airports had no flights coming or going Wednesday.

Rajesh Moorjani flew to Newark International Airport from Mumbai, India, in hopes of catching a connecting flight to San Francisco, but that seemed unlikely with most flights canceled. He said the crew offered to let people off the flight before it left Mumbai because of severe storms in the U.S., but he decided to try his luck.

“Initially I was quite hassled, and I was thinking about it a lot on the flight, but once I’m here, I say: ‘Let’s just make do with what we have, there’s no point in sitting grumpy for too long,’” he said as he tried to use Facebook to find an old classmate or acquaintance in the New York area he might be able to stay with.

The wind blew in gusts from 25 to 45 mph in and around snowbound Washington, whipping fresh powder and making driving treacherous as visibility was only about a block in many places. Driving conditions got so bad that officials in Washington and some nearby suburbs pulled plows off the roads.

In Baltimore, Pete Korfiatis dumped snow into the Inner Harbor with a front-end loader until city officials decided the roads were too slick.

“They just shut everything down,” he said.

Heavy snow collapsed part of the roof and a wall at a Smithsonian Institution storage building in Suitland, Md. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said they don’t believe there was any damage to artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum, but officials were unable to go inside because the building is unstable.

In New York, George and Natividad Sanchez trudged over sludgy sidewalks in boots, parkas and scarves to salvage their 2-year-old daughter’s eagerly awaited trip to “Sesame Street Live: When Elmo Grows Up.”

Daughter Natali’s day care program had closed for the day, canceling a planned excursion to the performance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. But with their workplaces also closed, the Manhattan parents scrambled to buy their own tickets to the show Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to disappoint her,” George Sanchez said as the family arrived for the show.

Jeff Salgado, 24, a doorman at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Baltimore, said guests there had resorted to walking.

“All of them. I haven’t seen a cab all day,” Salgado said as he shoveled the latest layer of snow from in front of the hotel.

Snow was falling from northern Virginia to Connecticut after crawling out of the Midwest, where the storm canceled hundreds of flights and was blamed for three traffic deaths in Michigan.

In Chicago, a pickup truck plowing snow backed into and killed a 71-year-old woman. Police say Yuliya Polzikova was crossing a street Tuesday when she was struck by the truck as it backed out of the parking lot it was clearing with a plow attachment.

Associated Press writers Kiley Armstrong and Jennifer Peltz in New York; Brett Zongker, Brian Bakst and Sarah Brumfield in Washington; Ben Nuckols in Bel Air, Md.; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Kathleen Miller in Arlington, Va.; Dan Nephin in Elizabeth, Pa.; Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.

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