East digs out from storm

Photo by Richard Hertzler

Photo by Richard Hertzler

PHILADELPHIA -- Crews in Maryland worked to rescue motorists stranded on highways in snow drifts up to 8 feet and utility workers scrambled to restore power to more than 100,000 customers a day after a powerful storm disrupted the lives of some 50 million people from the southern plains up through the East Coast.

The storm has been blamed for more than a dozen deaths, mostly in traffic accidents.

Snowbound airports resumed limited operations but many flights were still canceled or delayed. School systems in the path of the storm remained closed for a second day, including in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., although New York City school children headed back to class after only their third snow day in six years.

In Washington, the federal government was closed for a fourth straight day. The nation's capital joined Philadelphia and Baltimore in logging their snowiest winters in history.

Paul Kocin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Washington, said the storm compares to some of the greatest ever largely because of its timing. He estimated 50 million people were affected.

''The big difference is that it occurred within a week and a half of three other storms,'' Kocin said. ''The combination of storms is almost unprecedented -- the amount of snow, the amount of impact.''

The latest storm dumped more than 19 inches in Baltimore, 10 inches in Washington, D.C. and 16 inches in Philadelphia. About 20 inches fell in central New Jersey and totals ranged from 10 to 16 inches around New York City.

Rescue workers in western Maryland broke through 6-to-8-foot snowdrifts to reach motorists in more than two dozen vehicles stranded overnight on U.S. 340. The highway became impassable after two tractor-trailers jacknifed and blocked the road.

Frederick County Director of Emergency Preparedness Seamus Mooney said by noon Thursday they were down to 12 vehicles with people still in them. He said others walked home or got rides to their destinations.

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said none of the stranded drivers appeared to be in physical distress and most chose to stay in their vehicles rather than go to a shelter.

The biggest problem has been getting tow trucks to the scene to remove tractor-trailers blocking the road on the 15-mile stretch between Frederick and the West Virginia state line.

Yue-Chung Siu, 25, got up early to be at work at his family's bagel store in Philadelphia by 5:30 a.m. Thursday. He said his normal 30 minute commute from Bensalem turned into an hour and 45 minutes because of detours and poorly plowed roads.

He recalled the record-breaking blizzard of January 1996.

''I was a little kid, so I had a lot of fun,'' Siu said. ''Now, it's like half-fun, half-hassle.''