Icy Northeast Storm Claims Nine Lives

Ice glazed roads across the Great Lakes and Northeast states. (Photo by Lindsey Miller)

ALBANY, New York, December 17, 2007 (ENS) – Winter storm warnings and gale warnings are in effect from the eastern Great Lakes into New England and across central West Virginia today. The U.S. Coast Guard warns that severe weather conditions are expected to continue throughout the day Monday, generating wind gusts up to 50 knots and seas around 25 feet off the coast of the New England states.

“We know commercial fishing demand is high during the holiday season, but staying safe is the best gift a fisherman can give his family,” said Lt. Aurora Fleming, a First Coast Guard District Command Center duty officer.

Today, high winds and snow-covered runways are affecting flights across the Great Lakes, New England and the Atlantic states. Flights departing New Jersey’s Newark International airport and New York’s LaGuardia airport are delayed by nearly two hours.

Boston’s Logan airport is experiencing up to one hour detparture delays, and Chicago’s O’Hare airport is delaying flights about half an hour, according to the Federal Avaiation Administration.

But the National Weather Service says most of the snow carried by the storm that swept the region Sunday has now fallen.

Before tapering off, the storm deposited up to 18 inches of snow, claiming at least nine lives. Icy roads were blamed for four deaths in Indiana, two in Michigan and one each in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

The storm stranded air and road travelers and caused a jet plane to skid off a runway in Rhode Island.

A U.S. Airways Express Flight from Philadelphia carrying 31 passengers and three in crew slid off the runway when it attempted to come in to T.F. Green Airport, with about seven inches of snow on the ground. No injuries were reported.

The airport closed all runways for more than two hours. The incident is under investigation.

About 300 flights at Boston’s busy Logan International Airport were cancelled Sunday, and cancellations occured at Buffalo, New York; Portland, Maine; and Manchester, New Hampshire.

The storm downed power lines across the region, leaving 142,000 customers without power in Pennsylvania and 38,000 in Maryland. A total of 45,000 customers in Virginia and West Virginia and 550 in Delaware are also still in the dark.

In Toledo, Ohio, the University of Toledo winter commencement and other activities were canceled Sunday due to the combination of snow and ice that hit the area.

Winds are expected to continue weakening across much of the Northeast during the day as the intense storm moves farther Northeast away from the United States.

Precipitation in the Northeast will be limited to snow showers in northern New England, much of New York State, northern and western Pennsylvania, and the mountains of West Virginia.

Snow clearing crews and equipment have been hard a work and many roads across upstate New York are now clear. With many main roads all or partially cleared, forecasters are warning drivers to beware of blowing snow that could reduce visibility to as little as a mile.

Winds are expected to reach 15 to 30 mph, with gusts to 40 mph, through early afternoon, said Tom Wasula, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, who said blowing and drifting snow would be the biggest problem for motorists.

“Much of the storm has moved to our east, but the effects of significant icing have caused many problems with downed trees blocking roads and triggering power interruptions,” said Richard Flinn, deputy director for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. “We’re not completely out of the woods, yet. People need to continue to monitor weather reports and postpone unnecessary travel.”

If travel is necessary, motorists are advised to drive with extreme caution and be aware of black ice, as well as downed trees and power lines.

The storm blew in less than a week after an ice storm was blamed for at least 38 deaths, mostly in traffic accidents, across the Midwest.

Thousands of homes and businesses still have no electricity in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

In Oklahoma, 153,426 customers are still without power, and 47 shelters remain open with 2,400 people.

Kansas officials report 61,089 customers without power, and 52 shelters are still open serving 1,119 people.

In Missouri, 14,900 electricity customers are still in the dark and 13 shelters are open with 139 people; and in Iowa, 2,533 customers are still without power.

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