Powerful storm brings freezing temperatures to US

The monster snow and ice storm that hit the U.S. 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.

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 (38 centimeters) of snow in Cleveland, up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) across Pennsylvania and 42 inches (107 centimeters) in the southern Adirondacks. Three feet (90 centimeters) of snow fell on parts of Vermont, good news for the state's beleaguered ski industry. Nearly 2 feet (60 centimeters) fell on parts of New Hampshire.

In some parts of the Midwest and Northeast, the snow was followed by up to several inches (centimeters) 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 Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius).

"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 in Vermont, 25.7 inches (65.3 centimeters) fell Wednesday, the second-highest snowfall ever.

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.

At least 13 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.

Upstate New Yorkers woke up Thursday to sunny but frigid conditions a day after the big storm. Temperatures near or below zero F (minus 18 Celsius) combined with brisk winds drove the wind chill down to minus 10 to 20 degrees F (minus 23 to 29 C) 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 (50 kilometers) of the highway had become snarled after trucks bogged down Wednesday on a steep hill.

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

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, New York; Portland, Maine; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Philadelphia; Cincinnati; and Indianapolis. By Wednesday evening, all had reopened, though some Thursday flights were canceled.

In Northfield, Ohio, Spennato's Restaurant, usually a romantic dinner spot with its lace tablecloths and homemade marinara sauce, had been ready for a busy Valentine's Day, but any prospect of big business was buried in 15 inches (38 centimeters) of snow, reports AP.

"It's very bad news this was a big day for us. Now it will be way below average," said Edigio DiPaola, owner of the northeast Ohio restaurant.

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."

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