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Snow blows out to sea, now the big dig


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Snow blows out to sea, now the big dig


NORTHFIELD, Ohio - The monster snow and ice storm that hit the Midwest and Northeast had blown out to sea Thursday, leaving behind huge snow piles, frigid temperatures, highway logjams and frustrated retailers who hoped to cash in on

Valentine's Day. The storm was blamed for at least 14 deaths.


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.


The storm hit Wednesday, leaving up to 15 inches of snow in Cleveland, up to 12 inches across Pennsylvania and 42 inches in the southern Adirondacks in New York. Three feet of snow fell on parts of Vermont, good news for the state's beleaguered ski industry. Nearly 2 feet fell on parts of New Hampshire.


In some parts of the Northeast, the snow was followed by up to several inches of ice, leaving motorists with a slippery commute Thursday morning. That is, if they could free their ice-entombed cars. And with gusty winds, some areas had morning wind chills below zero.


"You can't even shovel it," said Wes Velker, an electrician who had to dig out from a foot of snow so he could go to work fixing busted water pipes and furnaces in Toledo, Ohio. "You have to take it off in layers."


At Burlington International Airport, 25.7 inches fell Wednesday, the second-highest snowfall ever. That led the founder of Burton Snowboards in Burlington to give employees the day off Thursday to enjoy the snow.


"Nothing makes me happier than giving the people who work here the opportunity to experience the essence of a sport that they are making accessible and fun for so many others," Jake Burton said.


Many school districts that canceled classes Wednesday extended the unplanned vacation for students an extra day. Districts in update New York, including Rochester, Syracuse and Utica and scores of schools north of Albany, remained closed for a second straight day Thursday.


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


Upstate New Yorkers woke up Thursday to sunny but frigid conditions a day after the big storm. Temperatures near or below zero combined with brisk winds drove the wind chill down to minus 10 to 20 degrees across the upstate region.


National Guard troops helped carry blankets and fuel to motorists stranded overnight on an icy, hilly stretch of Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania. As many as 30 miles of the highway had become snarled after trucks bogged down Wednesday on a steep hill.


Guard troops, using 14 Humvees, were helping wake truckers who slept in their rigs on the highway so the trucks can be moved and the miles-long traffic jam freed up, said Ron Taylor, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman. Taylor had no estimate of the number of rigs and cars stuck on the interstate.


At least 14 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. A motorist in New Hampshire was killed Thursday morning on an icy I-93, the site of numerous accidents.


There were hundreds of accidents across the East on Wednesday. The Ohio State Highway Patrol alone handled more than 1,200, but there were few injuries because most vehicle were moving slowly.


Hundreds of flights were canceled Wednesday at the New York City area's three major airports, with some passengers trapped on grounded planes for hours. Cancelations also were reported in Albany, N.Y.; Portland, Maine; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Philadelphia; Cincinnati; and Indianapolis. By Wednesday evening, all had reopened, though some Thursday flights were canceled.


Americans were expected to spend $16.9 billion this Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation. Spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said she didn't expect the storm to have much impact on the bottom line for florists, card shops, candymakers and eateries.


In Toledo, Ohio, Derrick Jones managed to deliver red roses and heart-shaped balloons even though authorities had ordered everyone but emergency workers to stay off the roads.


It earned him a $50 tip. "Rules are made to broken," he said, driving along a deserted downtown street. "Valentine's Day is a once-a-year event."


The winter blast also was good news for outdoor enthusiasts and businesses who have felt cheated by Mother Nature for most of the until-now mild winter.


"This is what I live for," said Win Whitcomb, a 44-year-old doctor from Hatfield, Mass., who took the day off to ski with his wife at Charlemont's Berkshire East ski area. "We've had a long drought this winter, and having a day like today is the best."


The icy weather got Maeve Hughes' Valentine wedding day off to a rocky start when her pickup skidded off Interstate 91 in Massachusetts. But she wasn't hurt, and went ahead with her civil ceremony to wed fellow musician Backa Niang in Northhampton.


"I consider the accident a test," she said. "How badly do I want this? I want this really badly. Nothing's going to stop me from getting married."





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