Midwest deep freeze moves East
Nor'easter adds to misery; more than 40 inches of snow in one town
The Associated Press, Dec. 22, 2008
CHICAGO - Bone-numbing cold spread Monday from the Midwest to the East, forcing millions to bundle up and scurry from place to place.
The core of the cold air mass was expected along the Eastern Seaboard by Monday night, with temperatures falling into the teens and twenties, and the freeze dipping as far south as northern Florida.
Gusty winds were adding to the chill, especially over the Northeast, and blowing snow from New York through New England, where more than a foot of snow fell Sunday and overnight.
Snowfall in northern New England topped 40 inches in one town, and travel remained disrupted as the days ticked town toward Christmas.
"It's so cold, it feels like needles are pricking my eyes," grumbled 19-year-old Ashley Sarpong of Chicago, a fur-lined hood pulled around her face Sunday. "This is the coldest I've felt all year."
Temperatures in Chicago were expected to be higher Monday but still only in the single digits.
Apart from northern New England, snowfall was relatively scant in the Midwest and East, but ice and high wind whipped up snow along roadways and made driving hazardous for holiday travelers.
In western New York, a 134-mile stretch of the state Thruway between Buffalo and Pennsylvania was closed for six hours overnight because of blowing snow.
In Pittsburgh, schools were initially to open two hours late, but were closed for the day instead because of below-zero wind chills.
Snowfall totals in Maine, New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts topped a foot or more as a nor'easter moved through Sunday and early Monday.
41.8 inches in Maine
The town of Eustis in western Maine received a whopping 41.8 inches by Monday morning. Eric Schwibs from the National Weather Service called it "the sweet spot of the storm."
For residents, however, it wasn't so sweet.
"It's beautiful but it's a little crazy," said Linda Shane, who had to call for help when the snow jammed her car doors shut as she tried to get out of her driveway. Finally at her job at Camden National Bank, she looked out the window and said: "You can't see the gas station across the street."
In New Hampshire, the deep snow added to the misery for nearly 11,000 customers still in the dark from an ice storm more than a week earlier.
The system also brought snow and cold rain to mid-Atlantic states over the weekend, and much of the region shivered with freezing temperatures and strong wind gusts that made it seem even colder.
Kelly Dagostino of Texarkana, Ark., was visiting New York for the first time and bundled up Monday so that the cold wouldn't keep her from her plans.
"It's still cold, very cold, but I want to see stuff so we're out and about in it," she said as she checked out Macy's holiday windows along 34th Street.
Monday morning commuters in Dayton, Ohio, were greeted with zero-degree temperatures, the National Weather Service reported. It was in the single digits in Toledo, Cincinnati and Columbus.
The cold also added to power-outage headaches in the Midwest. Nearly 50,000 customers remain without power across northern Indiana because of last week's ice storm. There were also more than 7,000 customers still out in Illinois on Monday and about 5,000 in northwest Ohio.
Pacific Northwest hit hard
In the Seattle area, hard hit by a rare snowstorm over the weekend, limited service resumed Monday at Sea-Tac Airport, but thousands of people were stranded because of all the flight cancellations over the weekend.
Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said Monday the airport had been distributing water and blankets and he hopes no one stranded Monday will still be on hold at Christmas.
The heavy snow was believed to have caused the collapse of a large tent over a temporary ice-skating rink in Bellevue, Wash., briefly trapping some of the 10 people inside and slightly injuring one girl. Snow was also suspected in the collapse of an unoccupied building housing a storage business in rural Waitsburg in eastern Washington.
The Portland, Ore., airport also had many flight cancellations, though it remained open.
"It is amazing," said Dave Thompson, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "You say to yourself: 'That's Portland?' The roads are snow-packed, covered with ice and it's freezing rain."
On the other side of the country, at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C., Rebecca Gray, 30, of South Berwick, Maine, spent the night with about 250 other people including her 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.
"There was a lot of people sleeping on the floor," she said Monday morning. "There were babies last night sleeping out there. Women and children shouldn't have been left like that while people said it's not our problem and went home.'"
The weather contributed to a rash of traffic accidents. Indiana State Police said four people were killed Sunday when a car spun out of control on an icy toll road near New Carlisle and was struck by a semitrailer.
In southwestern Michigan, about 30 vehicles were involved in a series of pileups on a six-mile stretch of Interstate 94. One person was killed.
Even hardy Minnesotans buckled to the cold, calling off a Minneapolis holiday parade Sunday that is automatically canceled if the wind chill dips below minus 20.
Arizona's third storm in a week was expected to roll in Monday afternoon, bringing up to 10 inches of snow to higher elevations and rain in Phoenix.
Authorities in Boston, no stranger to chilly weather, canceled public schools Monday and Tuesday in the face of an overnight freeze and wind gusts of up to 50 mph.
In North Dakota, the National Weather Service said Bismarck was on track to break a 1916 record for snowfall in December. The city has had 19 inches of snow so far this month, and with 4 more expected Monday night, the record of 21.7 inches could be shattered.
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.