Worst blizzard in five years brings New York to halt

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The Independent US

The worst blizzard in the north-eastern United States for five years blanketed northern New Jersey and New York City in more than a foot of snow, immobilising transport and shutting the area's main airports for most of Saturday.

The worst blizzard in the north-eastern United States for five years blanketed northern New Jersey and New York City in more than a foot of snow, immobilising transport and shutting the area's main airports for most of Saturday.

Snow-ploughs and clearance crews were out in force in Manhattan, as were sledders and skiers taking advantage of the strangely silent landscape.

Further south, in Washington and Baltimore, precautions proved redundant when the storm swept 50 miles further north than forecast. The Washington authorities, the butt of annual criticism over the inadequacy of its snow-clearance efforts, had more than 1,000 snow ploughs on stand-by through Friday night.

Main airlines had diverted planes and cancelled flights from the area's airports, to avoid repeating the experience of a year ago in Chicago and Minneapolis, where planes were trapped by snow for days.

News channels had whipped themselves into a frenzy of storm warnings, prompting people to rush to the supermarkets to stock up on food, water, firewood - and snow shovels. Parties were cancelled and journeys postponed.

So when the Washington area awoke on Saturday to brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies, albeit bitterly cold temperatures, there was profound disappointment. The city authorities were unable to earn their snow-spurs, the supermarket binge turned out to have been unnecessary, and children felt cheated out of their tobogganing expeditions. Boston was also largely spared, as the snow turned to rain.

By yesterday, New York's airports were operating again, but with limited services, and Times Square was indeed open.

The storm was part of the same weather system that brought the south-central plains states to a halt over Christmas. Large areas of Northern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas are still recovering from snow and ice that immobilised road and air traffic and brought down cables, leaving more than 250,000 people without power.

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