US digs out after week of 'sleeze'

WASHINGTON - Weary with constant practice, the eastern United States is starting to dig out after a week's buffeting by the elements - the latest and most disruptive storm of what has been the severest winter here for at least 12 years, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Yesterday was the first time in a week that the sun had appeared and temperatures risen above zero anywhere between the Canadian border and Washington DC. The snow, sleet and ice have disrupted business, closed airports and rail services, and on Friday shut down the entire federal government for the second time this year.

Although temperatures did not reach the record depths plumbed three weeks ago, this twelfth winter storm to hit the north-east deposited a foot of snow on New York, and twice as much in parts of New England. Here, and in much of the mid-Atlantic region, the punishment was 'sleeze', an unbroken 24- hour blizzard of sleet and freezing rain that brought down power and phone lines and coated roads, trees and buildings with ice up to two inches thick.

The cause of the trouble has been a southward shift in the upper atmosphere jet stream, allowing Arctic air from Canada to collide with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. The result was what a US National Weather Service spokesman called 'probably one of the top 10 sleet storms in modern times here'. Thirty-six hours after the battering, half a million people from Virginia to Alabama were without electricity. Although temperatures are expected to climb into the 40s for the next few days, city officials warn it will take far longer to melt the pack ice - not least because previous storms have almost exhausted stocks of sand and salt.

All across the country, the winter of '94 is already in the history books. Lake Superior froze over for the first time since 1978; in Washington, January temperatures were five full degrees below average. In economic terms, the weather may slow down recovery, knocking half a point or more off first-quarter GNP.

The misery though is finite. Technically, 35 days remain until the vernal equinox and the start of spring. For sports enthusiasts the wait is not as long. In Florida and Arizona the symbolic rites of the summer to come have begun - major league baseball players are reporting for spring training.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project