Mammoth snow storm turns fatal

TIM MCLAUGHLIN AND EDITH HONAN
Last updated 14:06 10/02/2013
Winter Storm Nemo
Reuters
WINTER WONDERLAND: A woman walks her dog in the Beacon Hill area of Boston, Massachusetts, as heavy snow falls as part of Winter Storm Nemo.

US northeast hit with knee-deep snow

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Emergency workers are using snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded in the record-breaking blizzard that has claimed eight lives.

Three deaths in Canada have been added to the toll of five in the US that includes the death of an 11-year-old boy who was poisoned by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shovelled snow.

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the boy was helping his father shovel the snow Saturday (NZT Sunday), but got cold, so his father started the car and the boy got inside.

MacDonald said the car exhaust pipe was covered by a snow bank, causing the fumes to collect inside the vehicle.

When the boy was overcome by the fumes, the father went into respiratory arrest, and emergency workers took both to a hospital. The boy was pronounced dead there. No names were released.

Others to die in the storm were an 80-year-old woman hit by a hit-and-run driver while clearing her driveway, and a 40-year-old man who collapsed while shoveling snow. One man, 73, slipped outside his home and was found dead on Saturday. Another man in his 70s was struck and killed on a snowy roadway.

A 30-year-old motorist in New Hampshire also died when his car went off the road, but the man’s health might have been a factor in the accident, state authorities said.

THE BIG DIG BEGINS

New Englanders began the back-breaking job of digging out from as much as 1m of snow Saturday (NZT Sunday) and emergency crews used snowmobiles to reach shivering motorists stranded overnight on New York’s Long Island after a howling storm swept through the Northeast.

At least eight deaths were blamed on the storm, including three in Canada.

About 650,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity, and some could be cold and dark for days.

Roads across the New York-to-Boston corridor of roughly 25 million people were impassable.

Cars were entombed by drifts. Some people found the wet, heavy snow packed so high against their homes they couldn’t get their doors open.

‘‘It’s like lifting cement. They say it’s two feet (60cm), but I think it’s more like three feet (1m),’’ said Michael Levesque, who was shovelling snow in Quincy, Massachusetts, for a landscaping company.

In Providence, where the drifts were 1.5m high and telephone lines encrusted with ice and snow drooped under the weight, Jason Harrison laboured for nearly three hours to clear his blocked driveway and front walk and still had more work to do. His snowblower, he said, ‘‘has already paid for itself’’.

At least five deaths in the US were blamed on the overnight snowstorm, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm while his father shovelled snow.

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Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee cautioned that while the snow had stopped, the danger hadn’t passed: ‘‘People need to take this storm seriously, even after it’s over. If you have any kind of heart condition, be careful with the shovelling.’’

Blowing with hurricane-force winds of more than 128kmh in places, the storm hit hard along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between New York City and Maine. Milford, Connecticut, got 96cm of snow, and Portland, Maine, recorded 81cm, shattering a 1979 record.

Several communities in New York and across New England got more than 61cm.

Still, the storm was not as bad as some of the forecasts led many to fear, and not as dire as the Blizzard of ‘78, used by longtime New Englanders as the benchmark by which all other winter storms are measured.

By midday Saturday, the National Weather Service reported preliminary snowfall totals of 63cm in Boston, or fifth on the city’s all-time list.

Bradley Airport near Hartford, Connecticut, got 56cm, for the number two spot in the record books there.

Concord, New Hampshire, got 61cm of snow, the second-highest amount on record and a few inches short of the reading from the great Blizzard of 1888.

In New York, where Central Park recorded 28cm, not even enough to make the top 10 list, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city ‘‘dodged a bullet’’ and its streets were ‘‘in great shape’’.

The three major airports — LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, New Jersey — were up and running by late morning after shutting down the evening before.

Most of the power outages were in Massachusetts, where more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left in the dark.

In Rhode Island, a peak of about 180,000 customers lost power, or about one-third of the state.

By nightfall, utility crews had started to make significant progress in restoring power and bringing those numbers down.

Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island imposed travel bans until 4pm to keep cars off the road and let plows do their work, and the National Guard helped clear highways in Connecticut, where more than 240 auto accidents were reported.

The Guardsmen rescued about 90 motorists, including a few who had hypothermia and were taken to hospitals.

On Long Island, which got more than 76cm of snow, hundreds of drivers spent a cold and scary night stuck on the highways.

Even snowplows got bogged down or were blocked by stuck cars, so emergency workers used snowmobiles to try to reach motorists, many of whom were still waiting to be rescued hours after the snow had stopped.

One of those who was rescued, Priscilla Arena, prayed as she waited, took out a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote what she thought might be her last words to her husband and children, ages 5 and 9.

Among her advice: ‘‘Remember all the things that mommy taught you. Never say you hate someone you love.’’

Around the New York metropolitan area, many victims of Superstorm Sandy were mercifully spared another round of flooding, property damage and power failures.

‘‘I was very lucky and I never even lost power,’’ said Susan Kelly of Bayville.

‘‘We were dry as anything. My new roof was fantastic. Other than digging out, this storm was a nice storm.’’

As for the shoveling, ‘‘I got two hours of exercise.’’

At New York’s Fashion Week, women tottered on 10.1cm heels through the snow to get to the tents to see designers’ newest collections.

Across much of New England, streets were empty of cars and dotted instead with children who had never seen so much snow and were jumping into snow banks and making forts. Snow

was waist-high in the streets of Boston. Plows made some thoroughfares passable but piled even more snow on cars parked on the city’s narrow streets.

Boston’s Logan Airport was not expected to resume operations until late Saturday night (local time).

In Massachusetts, the National Guard and Worcester emergency workers teamed up to deliver a baby at the height of the storm at the family’s home. Everyone was fine.

- Reuters

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