PHILADELPHIA – Yet another storm paralyzed the Northeast with heavy snow and sleet Thursday, giving the winter-weary that oh-no-not-again feeling, while hundreds of thousands across the ice-encrusted South waited in the cold for the electricity to come back on.
At least 21 deaths were blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of a pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot as she loaded groceries into her car.
The sloppy mix of snow and face-stinging sleet grounded more than 6,500 flights and closed schools and businesses as it made its way up the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor, where shoveling out has become a weekly – sometimes twice-weekly – chore.
Snow has become a four-letter word, lamented Tom McGarrigle, a politician in suburban Philadelphia.
About 1.2 million homes and businesses lost power as the storm moved from the South through the Northeast. By Thursday evening, about 550,000 customers remained in the dark, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
Baltimore awoke to 15 inches of snow. Washington, D.C., had at least 8, and federal offices and the citys two main airports were closed. The Virginia-West Virginia state line got more than a foot.
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.
The Boston area was expecting 4 to 6, while inland Connecticut and Massachusetts were looking at a foot or more.
In some places, the snow and freezing rain eased during the day, but a second wave was expected today.
Its like a dog chasing its tail all day, said Pat OPake, a plow operator in Pennsylvania.
In New Cumberland, Pa., which had about 10 inches of snow by mid-afternoon, Randal DeIvernois had to shovel after his snow blower died.
Every time it snows, its like, oh, not again, he said. I didnt get this much snow when I lived in Colorado. Its warmer at the Olympics than it is here. Thats ridiculous.
In New York, Min Lin 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. Her nearly full-term baby was delivered in critical condition via cesarean section.
No charges were brought against the snowplow operator in what appears to have been an accident, police said.
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 Ward, 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 for a hotel, where it was expected to be cozier but a lot less exciting than the night before.
From 2 oclock yesterday until this morning, it just sounded like gunfire – all the trees popping and falling, Cherie Ward said.
Near Raleigh, N.C., where the storm caused huge traffic jams 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 stranded motorists.
Some roads around Raleigh remained clogged with abandoned vehicles Thursday morning. City crews worked 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. Washington, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, New York and St. Louis already have 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 Department of Commerce said. Sales dipped 0.4 percent in January.
This latest round of bad weather threatens to disrupt Valentines Day deliveries today.
Its a god-awful thing, said Mike Flood, owner of Falls Church Florist in Virginia. Were going to lose money. Theres no doubt about it.