Northeast Continues Digging Out

Travis Costin shovels more than a foot of snow from around his girlfriend's car, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007, in Rome, N.Y. AP

Problems with ice, wind and sloppy roads stretched school closings and power failures into Thursday, one day after a Valentine's Day storm spread a mixture of snow, sleet and ice from northern Virginia to Delaware.

"The Northeast will be digging out in bitterly cold conditions along with gusty winds which will continue to blow the fresh snow into drifts," says CBS News meteorologist George Cullen.

With overnight temperatures in the teens, icy patches formed on roads, making a slippery commute for many drivers.

At least 13 deaths were blamed on the huge storm system: three in Nebraska; two each in Indiana, New Jersey and Delaware; and one each in Missouri, Ohio and Virginia. A tornado on the southern side of the weather system killed one person in Louisiana.

"There's about a foot and a-half of snow on the ground" in Albany, N.Y., said CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller, whose vehicle was pulled out of a three-foot-high snowdrift there by a Good Samaritan.

Utilities reported more than 66,000 customers without power early Thursday in Maryland, northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Delaware because of high winds and iced-up power lines. Crews worked through the night to reduce that number from about 135,000.

Most of the remaining outages were in Maryland.

Many school districts that canceled school Wednesday extended the unplanned vacation for students an extra day, calling off school because of continued problems with roads and power.

In the New York City area, many schools had late openings Thursday.

Federal government offices and some local government offices were expected to open at their regularly scheduled times, but employees were offered unscheduled leave.

Most major commuter routes were cleared Wednesday, but frigid overnight temperatures allowed moisture on some roadways to refreeze. Road crews worked early Thursday to retreat those areas. Many side streets remained treacherous.

"Yesterday's slush is today's ice," reports in Boston.

Fourteen National Guard vehicles from Allentown were assisting people who have been stranded overnight on an icy, hilly stretch of Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania.

PennDOT spokesman Ron Taylor said the guard troops were also helping wake truckers who have slept in their rigs out on the highway so the trucks can be moved and the miles-long traffic jam freed up.

Virginia transportation officials said with 16,000 miles of roads to clear in northern Virginia alone, some neighborhood streets likely wouldn't be fully treated and plowed until Thursday morning.

"We will continue to work around the clock," said Ryan Hall, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The storm that lasted from Tuesday night through Wednesday morning left snowfall in depths that ranged from about 1 inch to nearly 8 inches in western Maryland. Ice also built up in some areas to three-quarters of an inch, with some of the heaviest icing in southern and western Maryland.

JetBlue Airways Corp. was trying to calm a maelstrom of criticism Thursday, after passengers were left waiting on planes at a New York airport for as long as nine hours during a snow and ice storm.

The airline said 10 incoming and outbound flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport were "significantly delayed" with customers on board during Wednesday's storm. Reasons included congestion, frozen equipment and an effort to keep planes ready to go in case the weather broke, said JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin.

Calling the delays "unacceptable," the airline planned to offer the affected passengers refunds and free flights.

John Farrell's flight from Fort Myers, Fla., landed at 10 a.m., but passengers didn't get off until nearly 7 p.m., he said.

"You gotta realize the frustration — you can look out the window and you can see, there's the gate, and if you let us off the plane, we can walk there," said Farrell, 48, of Brooklyn.

The region's major airports were reopened by Wednesday and all runways were operational.

"Binghamton, N.Y., set a record for the date with 15 inches of snow, while Burlington, Vermont, shattered its old record with a whopping 25 inches," said Cullen.

The bad weather was also bad news for businesses that depend on Valentine's Day for big sales. Florists struggled to make deliveries, with some asking customers to accept flowers on Thursday instead. Restaurants hoped customers would keep their reservations while chocolate sellers lamented the lack of foot traffic as many people stayed home Wednesday.

"Why do we get a snowstorm on this day?" lamented Barbara Levi, owner of the downtown Washington chocolate and collectible store Chocolate Moose.
  • Sean Alfano

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