'Monster' storm kills 83 in US

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The Independent Online
MATCHED in intensity only by the hyberbole of the meteorologists, the 'Blizzard of '93' roared up the eastern third of the United States this weekend, closing down every city in its path and killing up to 83 people.

From the mouth of the Mississippi up to Maine in the far north- east it threw down a foot or more of snow, closing airports and blocking roads and railways. In Florida, where most of the deaths occurred, there was a tempest of rain, floods and 50 killer tornadoes.

Cities such as Boston and even New York are able to take blizzards in their stride - it helped that it came at a weekend - but parts of the South had never seen anything like it. Birmingham, Alabama, collected 15 inches (37cm) on Saturday - more than had ever fallen before in an entire winter - and 23 inches were recorded in parts of Tennessee.

For most weather forecasters it was the storm of a lifetime. At its centre, the storm produced the lowest barometric pressure recorded this century. In addition to snow there were hurricane-force winds, thunder and lightning and waves 30 feet (10 metres) high along parts of the east coast.

The storm was formed by a combination of an arctic jetstream from Canada and low pressure development in the Gulf of Mexico. Carrying millions of tons of moisture, it was scattering snow flakes over New York while its heart was only approaching the south of Georgia. As it began its trajectory north-east late on Friday no adjective was spared in the broadcast warnings: 'epic', 'monster', 'monumental'. Our local channel on Saturday morning kept flashing the message: 'The Big One is here.' By then the storm covered nearly the entire eastern third of the US, with its outermost bands over Cuba and the Canadian Maritimes.

In Cuba five people were reported killed, banana and tobacco crops were wiped out and the island's strategic sugar harvest was severely disrupted.

The Weather Channel, hoping to break a few records in the ratings, showed a map of the eastern US with a white swathe across it and the words: 'Explosive Situation]]' In the borough of Queens, just east of Manhattan, a policeman rescued 13 children, including a seven-month-old baby, from a van trapped on a flooded road. People were even skiing down Fifth Avenue.

While most of the east coast was digging its way back to normal yesterday, most sympathy went to people in Florida who have not recovered from Hurricane Andrew last summer. A 36-year-old woman died when a tornado swept through her mobile home. She and her husband had moved to a government trailer park south of Miami after Andrew destroyed their home last August. 'It took about one and a half seconds and it was over,' said Bob Honawitz, her husband. He had fallen asleep on the couch and she was in bed when the tornado struck.

Photographs, page 12

Britain in sunshine, page 3