650,000 powerless in US as blizzard pelts east coast

New York


Over 650,000 homes and businesses in northeast America were left without power in peak winter, thousands of flights were cancelled and people were asked to stay off roads as a monster blizzard buried cities from New York to Boston under mounds of snow.

By Saturday morning, the snowstorm was heading out to sea leaving one person dead in its wake after dumping about two feet of snow across New England and Long Island, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Connecticut saw the most accumulation with over 20 inches in many places, the NWS said in a bulletin early Saturday, but the nor'easter has beaten up Massachusetts with winds howling at 60 to 75 mph.

It knocked out power to over 400,000 addresses there, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all power breakdowns, CNN reported citing the state's power companies.

After a day of pelting wet snow, five states - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island - declared state of emergency, and Massachusetts, whose capital is Boston, banned vehicles from every road in the state, the New York Times reported.

Rhode Island with a population of one million, just one-sixth of Massachusetts' total, may have seen the worst power breakdowns relative to its size, with over 180,000 customers losing power, CNN said.

Snow covered the area from eastern Pennsylvania to Maine, the NWS said. It has turned almost everything in sight white. Overnight lows hovered in most of the Northeast below minus seven degrees Celsius and should not get above freezing Saturday.

Instead of carrying its destructive power further inland, the way superstorm Sandy did in early November, the nor'easter has begun taking its fury off shore, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

But the system continues to sling snow back toward land, as it heads out over the Atlantic.

By Saturday afternoon, the storm's fury is likely to shift to the Plains and Mountain States, where blizzards and heavy snows are expected to last into Monday over a region larger than the Northeast but far less populous, the news channel said.

Still, the only known loss of life from the storm so far occurred in a vehicle accident in New York.

An 18-year-old woman lost control of her car due to the falling snow and struck a 74-year-old man walking near the side of the road, police in Poughkeepsie said. He died in hospital from his injuries.

Hundreds of cars were stranded on the Long Island Expressway, after motorists got stuck driving in the snow. They outnumbered the number of tow trucks and crews deployed in the area for the storm, according to the Suffolk County police.

Rail transportation has come to a virtual halt, with commuter trains running on a patchwork schedule. Nearly 5,000 flights have been cancelled to and from the Northeast Friday and Saturday.

Cities in the most populous section of America looked like ghost towns, as streets usually bustling with traffic emptied out. Residents followed the pleas by governors and mayors to "basically, stay at home", as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had advised. - IANS