NEW YORK: A deadly winter storm swept the eastern United States (US) on Thursday (Friday in Manila) spelling drudgery for millions and tragedy for a few, including an expectant mother killed by a snowplow.
US media counted some 16 to 18 people dead as a result of the storm, which dropped a thick blanket of snow over eastern cities overnight and shut down federal government operations in Washington. The snow was up to a foot in places.
One of the casualties was a 36-year-old pregnant woman, struck and killed by a snowplow in a New York parking lot. Her baby was delivered alive by cesarean section but remains in critical condition.
In Washington, a man from a local psychiatric hospital was found dead in the snow, Mayor Vincent Gray said.
The National Weather Service warned that heavy snow would continue overnight in the northeast, “but will begin to taper off from south to north through the morning hours on Friday.”
Thousands of travelers were stranded as major air hubs such as Atlanta and New York were closed down. Washington’s Dulles International reported 14 inches (35 centimeters) of snow.
Some 6,500 flights were canceled outright, and more than 3,800 delayed, spelling misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Nearly 800,000 homes and businesses lost power across 11 states along the eastern seaboard, with 340,000 outages in North and South Carolina, the Department of Energy said on Thursday afternoon.
In Washington, buses were cancelled and city services struggled to keep even major roads open.
Schools were shut and the streets of the capital eerily deserted as federal workers stayed home or worked to scrape snow off sidewalks and driveways that were quickly buried by the deluge.
Even the White House canceled its daily news briefing, as skiers appeared nearby on the National Mall, the large esplanade at the center of Washington.
New York, which saw the same abundance of snow Thursday morning, was under a weather advisory until 6 a.m. on Friday, with 12 inches of snow expected for the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers that public transportation remained the best option for travel and that trash collection had been suspended.
Meanwhile, “thundersleet,” a foul mix of lightning storms and mixed precipitation, brewed in Virginia and headed north.
Broadcasters fell over themselves to find superlatives to describe this “Snowmaggedon,” dubbed “historic” and “mindboggling.”
“This storm is dangerous. Road conditions are treacherous,” said Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina, a state where President Barack Obama had declared a federal emergency.
In Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy declared a state of emergency asking the federal government for help in areas of the state experiencing road-salt shortages.
The storm is only the latest severe weather to hit the eastern United States in what was already the worst winter in 10 years.