US states slowly recover from blizzard

Last updated 12:31 11/02/2013
Reuters

Efforts are underway to clear snow from the Long Island Expressway after a powerful blizzard left cars stranded as it hammered the U.S. Northeast. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

Winter Storm Nemo
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Steve Young shovels snow from his sidewalk in Boston, Massachusetts, during Winter Storm Nemo.

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Travel eased and life slowly returned to normal for most New Englanders after a massive blizzard, but many remained without power in cold and darkened homes and a forecast of rain brought a new worry: Weight piling up dangerously on roofs already burdened by heavy snow.

The storm that slammed into the region with up to 1 metre of snow was blamed for at least 14 deaths in the Northeast and Canada, and brought some of the highest accumulations ever recorded. Still, coastal areas were largely spared catastrophic damage despite being lashed by strong waves and hurricane-force wind gusts at the height of the storm.

Hundreds of people, their homes without heat or electricity, were forced to take refuge in emergency shelters set up in schools or other places.

"For all the complaining everyone does, people really came through," said Rich Dinsmore, 65, of Newport, RI, who was staying at a Red Cross shelter set up in a middle school in Middletown after the power went out in his home on Friday (Saturday, NZT).

Dinsmore, who has emphysema, was first brought by ambulance to a hospital after the medical equipment he relies on failed when the power went out and he had difficulty breathing.

"The police, the fire department, the state, the Red Cross, the volunteers, it really worked well," said the retired radio broadcaster and Army veteran.

Utility crews, some brought in from as far away as Georgia, Oklahoma and Quebec, raced to restore power to more than 300,000 customers - down from 650,000 in eight states at the height of the storm. In hardest-hit Massachusetts, where some 234,000 customers remained without power on Sunday, officials said some of the outages might linger until Tuesday.

Driving bans were lifted and flights resumed at major airports in the region that had closed during the storm, though many flights were still canceled Sunday (Monday, NZT).

The Boston-area public transportation system, which shut down on Friday afternoon, partially resumed subway service and some bus routes on Sunday. Beverly Scott, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said full service was expected on Monday - albeit with delays.

"Give yourself more time and expect that it is going to take us more time," Scott advised riders.

Boston public schools were among many in the region that had already decided to cancel classes on Monday.

Boston recorded 63cm of snow, making it the fifth-largest storm in the city since records were kept. The city was appealing to the state and private contractors for more front-end loaders and other heavy equipment to clear snow piles that were clogging residential streets.

On eastern Long Island, which was slammed with as much as 76.2cm of snow, hundreds of snowplows and other heavy equipment were sent in Sunday to clear ice- and drift-covered highways where hundreds of people and cars were abandoned during the height of the storm.

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More than a third of all the state's snow-removal equipment was sent to the area, Gov Andrew Cuomo said, including more than 400 plow trucks and more than 100 snow blowers, loaders and backhoes.

The National Weather Service was forecasting rain and warmer temperatures in the region on Monday - which could begin melting some snow but also add considerable weight to snow already piled on roofs, posing the danger of collapse. Of greatest concern were flat or gently-sloped roofs and officials said people should try to clear them - but only if they could do so safely.

"We don't recommend that people, unless they're young and experienced, go up on roofs," said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

In Middlefield, Conn, two cows were killed when the roof of a barn gave way under the weight of heavy snow - one of two such incidents in the state that prompted agriculture officials to issue an advisory to farmers.

Officials also continued to warn of carbon monoxide dangers in the wake of the storm.

In Boston, two people died Saturday after being overcome by carbon monoxide while sitting in running cars, including a teenager who went into the family car to stay warm while his father shoveled snow. The boy's name was not made public. In a third incident, two children were hospitalized but expected to recover.

A fire department spokesman said in each case, the tailpipes of the cars were clogged by snow.

Authorities also reminded homeowners to clear snow from heating vents to prevent carbon monoxide from seeping back into houses.

In Maine, the Penobscot County Sheriff's office said it recovered the body of a 75-year-old man who died after the pickup he was driving struck a tree and plunged into the Penobscot River during the storm. Investigators said Gerald Crommett apparently became disoriented while driving in the blinding snow.

Christopher Mahood, 23, of Germantown, NY, died after his tractor went off his driveway while he was plowing snow Friday night and rolled down a 4.5-metre embankment.

In eastern Long Island, hundreds of cars were stuck on roads, including the Long Island Expressway, a 43-km stretch of which was closed Sunday (Monday, NZT) for snow-removal work. Officials hoped to have most major highways cleared in time for the morning commute Monday.

In Massachusetts, eight teams were formed to assess damage from flooding along the state's coastline, with the hardest hit-areas including historic Plymouth and portions of Cape Cod.

"Considering the severity of the storm, the amount of snow and the wind, we've come through this pretty well," GovDeval Patrick told CBS's Face The Nation after meeting with local officials in Plymouth.

The US Postal Service said that mail delivery that was suspended in the six New England states, as well as parts of New York and New Jersey, because of the snowstorm would resume Monday, where it is safe to do so.

Utility companies also reported steady progress in restoring power to customers.

In Massachusetts, some 234,000 customers remained without power on Sunday - down from 400,000 at the height of the blizzard, the vast majority in the southeastern part of the state. Rhode Island reported about 54,000 outages Sunday, down from 185,000. Connecticut still had about 15,000 without power, while in New York, just under 2400 outages remained.

Newport resident Christine Carreiro, who spent time at a shelter with her 2-year-old son, who suffers from asthma and needs treatment from an electrically powered nebulizer, said she was thankful for the effort by line workers.

"Whoever was fixing the power lines left their families to help us," she said. "I'm very grateful.

- Reuters

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