Another messy morning in winter-weary Northeast
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Commuters face a messy morning of travel a day after a winter storm brought snow and ice to many states, leaving at least 21 dead, including a pregnant woman struck by a mini-plow in New York City whose baby was then born by cesarean section in critical condition.
The next go-round of bad weather began early Friday in some places - just in time to delay tens of thousands of deliveries of Valentine's Day flowers.
The sloppy mix of snow and face-stinging sleet grounded more than 6,500 flights nationwide on Thursday and closed schools, businesses and government centers. About 1.2 million utility customers lost power as the storm moved from the South through the Northeast, dropping to about 550,000 outages, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
"Every time it snows, it's like, "Oh, not again,'" said Randal DeIvernois of New Cumberland, Pa., which had about 10 inches of snow by midafternoon Thursday. "I didn't get this much snow when I lived in Colorado."
The treacherous weather was blamed for nearly two dozen deaths, many of them in motor vehicle accidents.
In New York, Min Lin, 36, died after she was struck by a utility vehicle with a snowplow attached to it as it backed up outside a shopping center in Brooklyn. She was rushed by paramedics to a nearby medical center, where her nearly full term, 6-pound, 6-ounce baby was delivered via cesarean section, hospital spokeswoman Eileen Tynion said.
No immediate charges were brought against the snowplow operator.
The snow, sleet and ice that bombarded the Southeast on Wednesday brought its ferocity into the Northeast a day later.
Washington, D.C., residents received 9 inches of snow Thursday, Westminster, Md., reported 19 inches, and Newark, Del., had 14 inches.
Philadelphia had nearly 9 inches, its fourth 6-inch snowstorm of the season - the first time that has happened in the city since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. New York City received nearly 10 inches, and parts of New Jersey had more than 11.
At Connecticut's Bradley International Airport, 7.4 inches of snow was recorded and there was 3.2 inches at Logan International Airport in Boston.
Across the South, the storm left in its wake a world of ice-encrusted trees and driveways and snapped branches and power lines.
In Bonneau, S.C., Jimmy Ward and his wife, Cherie, lost power and spent Wednesday night in their home, warming themselves in front of a gas log fire.
But after running low on propane, they headed Thursday night to a hotel, where it was expected to be cozier but a lot less exciting than the night before.
"From 2 o'clock yesterday until this morning, it just sounded like gunfire - all the trees popping and falling," Cherie Ward said.
In North Carolina, where the storm caused huge traffic jams in the Raleigh area on Wednesday as people left work and rushed to get home in the middle of the day, National Guardsmen in high-riding Humvees patrolled the snowy roads, looking for any stranded motorists.
Some roads around Raleigh remained clogged with abandoned vehicles Thursday morning. City crews were working to tow them to safe areas where their owners could recover them.
Around the country, this is shaping up as one of the snowiest winters on record. As of early this month, Washington, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, New York and St. Louis had gotten roughly two or three times as much snow as they normally receive at this point in the season.
The procession of storms and cold blasts - blamed in part on a kink in the jet stream, the high-altitude air currents that dictate weather - has cut into retail sales across the U.S., the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Sales dipped 0.4 percent in January.
This latest round of bad weather threatens to disrupt Friday's deliveries of flowers for Valentine's Day.
"It's a godawful thing," said Mike Flood, owner of Falls Church Florist in Virginia. "We're going to lose money. There's no doubt about it."
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was virtually silent Thursday, with all flights canceled. Travelers tried to catch some sleep in the terminals.
Rob Wolcott, of Washington, and his wife were trying to reach the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, where he was planning to officiate at a friend's wedding on Saturday.
The future bride and groom are "a little stressed," Wolcott said. "But they'll figure something out. They will still get married, whether or not I am the one to do the actual officiating."
Associated Press writers Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh; Michael Rubinkam in Berks County, Pa.; Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; Sarah Brumfield and Brett Zongker in Washington; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Va.; and David Dishneau in Frederick, Md.; contributed to this report.