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At least a dozen deaths have been attributed to the weather since Friday.



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



At least a dozen deaths have been attributed to the weather since Friday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Millions of people across the East spent Presidents Day weekend with shovels in hand after a massive winter storm buried some areas with more than 2 feet of snow -- snarling traffic, closing airports and causing at least a dozen deaths.

The storm was part of a huge system that left its mark in a variety of ways: blizzard conditions in the Northeast; rain, mudslides and floods in the South; heavy snowfall across the eastern United States.

By early today, Silver Spring, Md., had 25 inches of snow and Berkley County in West Virginia had 27 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Flakes piled up at a rate of up to 4 inches an hour in parts of Maryland, where Gov. Robert Ehrlich banned most civilian traffic from state highways. He was one of several governors to declare disaster areas.

"This is looking like the largest storm this year, and it may be one of the top five in our recorded history," said Lora Rakowski of Maryland's Highway Administration. "You name a place, they've got snow -- and a lot of it."

At least a dozen deaths have been attributed to the weather since snow and rain moved across the Plains on Friday.

The storm moved east at a lethargic pace over the next two days, taking aim at the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic before heading into the Northeast.

Forecasters predicted the storm would leave 16 to 20 inches in Philadelphia. Eighteen to 22 inches was expected in New York City, which readied 1,300 plows and 148,000 tons of salt, said Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Sanitation.

Most areas of the city had received more than 6 inches by 5 a.m. today -- with the heaviest snow yet to come.

"It's getting bad, and it's going to stay bad," said Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.

Forecasters said the storm system would continue its northeasterly trek into Vermont and New Hampshire late today as the snow finally tapers.

In Louisville, Ky., wrecked cars lined several area interstates after heavy rain turned to sleet and ice. More than 40,000 households in Lexington were without electricity.

"You'll go down a street and you're lucky if you can get from one end to the other without having to drive around trees," said Pat Dugger, director of environmental and emergency management in Lexington.

In West Virginia, some of the approximately 60,000 residents without electricity were told crews might not be able to restore power until at least Wednesday.

Blizzard warnings

New Jersey, Delaware and New York were under a blizzard warning today, meaning visibility could be reduced to less than a quarter mile.

Coastal residents in Delaware and New Jersey braced for flooding brought on by an 8-foot storm surge that was compounded by a full-moon high tide.

The major airports in Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C., area were closed early today except for one runway at Washington Dulles International Airport. Amtrak suspended service between Washington and Richmond, Va.

In Tennessee, more than 7 inches of rain helped trigger a mudslide early Sunday, destroying an apartment building outside Knoxville, chasing out several dozen tenants.

Hospitals in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania asked for volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles to help employees get to and from work.

"It's very nerve-racking out there, because you can't even find the road," said Merrie Street, a spokeswoman for the Harford County, Md., emergency center.

Holiday eases problems

Public schools and many offices had already been closed today because of President's Day, a federal holiday.

While elementary and high school pupils across the East celebrated their holiday with sledding and snowballs, college students at several schools also enjoyed a day off after administrators called off classes.

The holiday also eased traffic problems.

"If this was a normal workday, I think we'd have major problems with transport across the city," New York Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty said.

Weather-related deaths included two in Illinois, one in Nebraska, two in West Virginia, six in Missouri and one person killed in Iowa when an Amtrak train slammed into a car stuck on the tracks in drifting snow west of Danville.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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