Blizzards pound snowbound Mid-Atlantic to New York

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - 11:36am

WASHINGTON – Snow, wind and slush hounded eastern commuters Wednesday as blizzard warnings from Baltimore to New York City heralded the second major storm in a region already blanketed by historic weekend snowfalls

More than 10 inches of new snow fell before dawn in parts of Maryland that had received up to 30 inches just a few days earlier. Plows and salt spreaders fought heavy snow in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the flakes briefly turned to rain to make a slushy mix.

The manager of a Staten Island 7-Eleven, Yagnesh Patel, had a slippery drive to work ahead of the plows. "It's going to be a tough day ahead," Patel said.

The wind started blowing in gusts from 25 to 45 mph in and around snowbound Washington, whipping fresh powder and making driving treacherous as visibility was only about a block in many places. Driving conditions got so bad that officials in Washington and some nearby suburbs pulled plows off the roads.

Chris Matherne, a Washington property manager, was walking to work to ensure shoveling got done. Matherne had only walked a few blocks, but his clothes and even his eyebrows were already covered in snow.

"My brain is a little frozen," he said.

Ted Romer, 53, a military contractor from Schererville, Ind., was stuck in a hotel in Bel Air, Md., with little to do because the Army's nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground was closed.

"I've got e-mails in my inbox I need to read. I've got a newspaper and a book — stuff that I call the rainy-day activities, administrative things," Romer said.

Jeff Salgado, 24, a doorman at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Baltimore, said guests had resorted to walking.

"All of them. I haven't seen a cab all day," Salgado said as he shoveled the latest layer of snow from in front of the hotel.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter urged residents to stay home if possible.

"It's going to be pretty horrendous out there," he said. "The roads are pretty rough right now, although our city forces are out."

Plows have been rolling around the clock for days in the nation's capital, Philadelphia and Baltimore after nearly 3 feet of snow fell in some areas last weekend — and they won't be stopping anytime soon.

In Chicago, a pickup truck plowing snow backed into and killed a 71-year-old woman. Police say Yuliya Polzikova was crossing a street Tuesday when she was struck by the truck as it backed out of the parking lot it was clearing with a plow attachment.

Snow was falling from northern Virginia to Connecticut by early Wednesday after crawling out of the Midwest, where the storm canceled hundreds of flights and was blamed for three traffic deaths in Michigan.

The storm has buried Baltimore under record snow for the season and put Washington within inches of a high from 1898-99, according to the National Weather Service.

More than 5 inches fell in both cities since Tuesday, making the total for Baltimore 65.6 inches since December, breaking the previous record of 62.5 inches from 1995-96. Washington is only about 4 inches away from its record of 54.4 inches from 1898-99.

"It's hard to find anything in the history books of these types of storms back-to-back," said National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Konarik.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings Wednesday that extended into New York City, where 10 to 16 inches could fall. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights at airports on the Eastern seaboard and schools in New York City were closed, only the third snow day in six years for the district's 1.1 million students.

Along the East Coast, thousands of workers were scrambling to plow and salt roads. Maryland officials said salt supplies used by road crews were dwindling in some parts of the state. A spokesman for Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation said drivers' shifts were running as long as 16 hours.

"It can be exhausting, mentally and physically," said Jerry Graham, a state plow truck driver in Pennsylvania's Lehigh County.

Michael Giambattista, 56, a truck driver from Elizabeth, Pa., had been without power since Friday and was staying at a Red Cross shelter near his home with his girlfriend and 13-year-old son.

"I've never been without power like this," said Giambattista, who was trying to help keep spirits up among the more than 50 people at the shelter. "Mother Nature, you can't battle her. She's going to win."

The storms have kept some workers and students home for the better part of a week. About 230,000 federal workers in Washington have been off since Friday afternoon, when the first storm began. The U.S. House announced it was scrapping the rest of its workweek. Several hearings and meetings in Congress and federal agencies were postponed, including one planned to address Toyota's massive recalls.

"It's embarrassing that the world's largest superpower closes from a few feet of snow," said Alex Krause, 23, of Los Angeles, who was stranded in Washington and visiting the National Mall. "The Kremlin must be laughing."

But the effects of the federal government's closure were negligible since about 85 percent of federal employees work outside the Washington region. An IRS spokeswoman said tax returns should not be affected.

Thousands remained without power from the last storm in parts of western Pennsylvania, Maryland and other areas. Utilities said deep snow was hindering some crews trying to fix damaged power lines even before Tuesday's storm arrived.

Their task could grow even more difficult with new snowfall and winds gusting up to 50 mph that create blizzard conditions in the Mid-Atlantic.

In West Virginia, where 40 counties were under winter storm warnings, Gov. Joe Manchin urged people to make sure snow was cleared from roofs of public buildings to avoid a repeat of 1998, when roof collapses were blamed for at least three deaths.

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