Bitter cold sets in as US digs out from epic storm

Feb 03, 2011 12:00 AM

Bitterly cold temperatures set in as millions of Americans dug out from a massive storm which dumped snow, ice and sleet over a 3,000 km (2,000 miles) stretch from Texas to Maine. The storm -- one of the largest since the 1950s -- had ground travel nearly to a halt and authorities warned that road conditions remained treacherous even though the storm had dissipated.
"Motorists should still not travel if it can be avoided," said Colonel Ron Replogle of the Missouri State Highway Patrol as he announced the reopening of Interstate 70, which had been closed all day from one end of the state to the other.
"Also, remember that many other roads around the state are still not passable."

An Oklahoma news crew captured the dramatic rescue of eight people whose truck skidded off a highway bridge into a frozen river near Tulsa. Six people had managed to climb onto the roof of the truck and the other two were able to stay out of the frigid water which seeped inside. But three of them nonetheless died from exposure and the conditions of the others was unknown, it was reported.
Officials also warned people to be careful of slippery side-walks and not to strain themselves while shovelling, noting that 40 people died of heart attacks in the aftermath of a 1999 blizzard in Chicago.
"Do not underestimate the task at hand," the National Weather Service said.

Illinois officials were investigating seven storm-related deaths, including a man stuck in his car who was dead by the time rescuers arrived and another who suffered a heart attack shovelling snow.
An Ohio state trooper and his wife were found dead in their garage, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to use a generator to power their home, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
At least a dozen other storm-related deaths were reported, including a homeless man who set himself on fire trying to keep warm in Long Island and a 20-year-old Oklahoma woman killed while being pulled on a sled by a pick-up truck that crashed into metal pole.

The storm, which affected around 100 million people, was epic in scope. Blizzard, winter storm, freezing rain and wind chill warnings were issued for more than 30 of the 50 US states. In all, more than 18,500 flights were cancelled across the country, according to FlightAware. States of emergency were declared in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma and the National Guard was called out to help rescue stranded motorists.
Snow drifts topped 10 feet (3.05 meters) in some areas with snowfalls between 10 and 27 inches (25 to 69 centimeters) in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Massachusetts, and New York.

In Chicago -- which clocked its third biggest snowfall on record as near-hurricane force winds sucked moisture off Lake Michigan -- firefighters used snowmobiles to navigate the streets and help rescue hundreds of people trapped in their cars on Lakeshore Drive.
Despite being known for scoffing at the wintry weather that cripples other cities, Chicago declared its first snow day in 12 years and announced that schools would remain shuttered until further notice.

Neighbors banded together to dig out cars and clear side-walks as a festive mood settled on the snowbound city. "It's a big storm, but I'm a Chicago boy, I'm used to it," John Falk, 62, told AFP as he dug through the heavy snow coating his walkway. Where there was less snow, there was ice, lots of it.
New York City was coated with more than a half inch (1.3 cm) of ice, turning side-walks into skating rinks. Melting sun later sent ice crashing onto pedestrians.
"I was walking underneath a tree, and bits of ice chunks were falling," Amelia Priddis, a Londoner on holiday told The New York Times. "You can't dodge it. You just have to hope it doesn't hit you hard."
Hundreds of thousands of people lost power in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana after strong winds knocked down trees and power lines, with utilities not promising power to parts of Ohio until the end of the week.

Texas was forced to seek help from Mexico's state electricity company after rolling power outages due to the unusually cold temperatures Wednesday and utility companies warned of more outages Thursday as a new storm coated power lines with ice.

Another layer of danger loomed, as a blast of frigid air from Canada followed the storm.
Weather maps showed that only the west coast and southern east coast were above freezing and wind chill advisories were issued for Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

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