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BLIZZARD BURIES EAST\50 killed; work, travel interrupted.

Byline: Roger Petterson Associated Press

A blizzard of historic proportions shut down the East at the start of the work week Monday, stopping cars, trains, planes and just about anything else that moves. At least 50 deaths were blamed on the weather.

"The snow in some places was thigh-high. You had no idea whether you were stepping onto a curb or a snow-covered sinkhole. I did both," said lawyer Ron Kuby in New York City.

Only emergency vehicles were allowed on many highways and New York City streets - Hoboken, N.J., even set up roadblocks - and all major airports were closed from Washington to Boston. Bus lines shut down, and passengers from one Amtrak train were stuck in a West Virginia hotel.

Hundreds of truckers and other travelers were stuck in truck stops, restaurants and highway service areas.

"It's better to be stuck somewhere comfortable rather than in the truck," said William Bedell, a trucker from Aiken, S.C., stopped along the New Jersey Turnpike. "The load is not worth your life. You can always get another truck, not another me."

It was the third worst snowstorm on record for New York City, where 20.6 inches piled up in skyscraper-surrounded Central Park. Outlying Staten Island got more, with 27.5 inches.

"It reminds me of when I was growing up in Iceland," said Olos Haggerty, trying to get a cab to work in New York City.

The city's worst blizzard was the day after Christmas in 1947, when 26.4 inches fell. But there was little wind, unlike the blizzard of March 12, 1888, when 21 inches got heaped into drifts that reached second-story windows. The 1888 storm killed more than 300 people on the East Coast.

The Northeast also got heavy snow in 1983, when Philadelphia received a record 21.3 inches. That city got more this time: 30.3 inches.

The Baltimore region got 23 inches, just short of the 24.7-inch record set in the big blizzard of January 1922.

The most snow was in the Appalachians, with 43 inches in West Virginia's Webster County, and 30 in parts of Virginia and Tennessee. Far to the south, Georgia got a foot and Alabama highways were iced.

Mail delivery was halted in Washington and New York City, and hundreds of schools were closed from Georgia to New Hampshire. New York City's 1 million schoolchildren enjoyed their first snow day since 1978; classes were canceled until at least Wednesday.

Much of the federal government was shut down, and Republican Sens. Phil Gramm and Bob Dole had to cancel New Hampshire campaign treks because they couldn't get out of Washington. The United Nations also closed.

The New York, American and Nasdaq stock exchanges opened late for abbreviated sessions. But the storm shut down the New York Mercantile Exchange and the New York Commodity Exchange, among others.

The statue of George Washington in front of the NYSE "looks more like 'Frosty' today," said brokerage clerk Chris Betts.

Doctors at one New York hospital reported a "mini-epidemic" of at least 18 people who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in cars with the engines running and the tailpipes stuck in the snow. Two were in serious condition.

Even using cross-country skis was dangerous. Vivian Toan ran into trouble using her skis on New York's Brooklyn Bridge. "I almost got blown off," she said. "I had to hang on to some of the cables."

On New York's Fire Island, a restaurant and three houses collapsed during the blizzard and washed out to sea, said Jay Lippert, a ranger at the Fire Island National Seashore. He said four big holes in the dunes were all that was left of them.

Philadelphia city crews had trucked away about 800 tons of snow and dumped it in the Schuylkill River, but the nation's fifth-largest city still resembled a ghost town with drifts up to 6 feet high.

Major airports for Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., Boston and New York City shut down, and waiting areas turned into shelters. Drifts at New York's airports were as high as 20 feet, said Port Authority executive director George Marlin.

And that backed up flights elsewhere. Between 700 and 900 TWA passengers bound for the East Coast were stranded overnight at St. Louis. Hundreds of people flying in from Europe to New York had to spend the night at Bangor, Maine.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed almost all the way across the state and nonessential travel was banned from the New Jersey Turnpike. Roads were closed in half of Pennsylvania until Tuesday.

CAPTION(S):

PHOTO

(1 -- color) Uniformed Secret Service officers assist a snowbound motorist in front of the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. (2) Philadelphia City Hall is obscured by a thick blanket of falling snow. Association Press
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 9, 1996
Words:804
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