Blizzard brings America to a shuddering halt

An enormous winter storm left millions of Americans shivering in its frozen footprint and crushed snow-laden buildings in the north-east of the country yesterday, where a combination of ice, snow and rain pushed much of the region to breaking point.

Wind chills dipped to -34C in parts of the country's midsection before the region awoke yesterday to deal with the storm's aftermath.

The sprawling weather system unloaded as much as 2 ft of snow, crippled airports and stranded drivers in downtown Chicago as if in a prairie blizzard. Lake Shore Drive, pictured, was closed on Tuesday and only reopened yesterday.

The usually sunny southwest of the US also suffered. Some places in the north-east have had so much more snow than usual that they are running out of places to put it.

In Portland, Maine, the downtown snow-storage area was expected to reach capacity after this week's storm. Across the storm's path, lonely commuters struggled against drifts 4ft deep in eerily silent streets, some of which had not seen a plough's blade since the snow started a day earlier.

"This is the most snow I've seen," said 34-year-old Chicagoan Michael George. "I saw people cross-country skiing. It was pretty wild."