US east coast still paralysed by 'Snowmageddon'

 

“SNOWMAGEDDON” renewed its brutal assault on US mid-Atlantic states yesterday, battering Washington and Baltimore and reaching as far north as New York.

Snow-ploughing stopped yesterday morning in Washington and neighbouring Virginia and Maryland. There were near white-out conditions and winds of up to 97km/h (60mph). All three of the region’s airports closed.

The federal government shut down for the third consecutive day. According to the US Office of Personnel Management, the stoppage costs US taxpayers $100 million (€73 million) each day in lost revenue and operating costs. Even the White House told West Wing staff not to come to work.

Last year US president Barack Obama mocked his daughters’ school for shutting because of ice. “When it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things,” he said.

Most of the area’s schools have closed until Tuesday, February 16th, following the Presidents’ Day holiday on Monday.

By last night, areas of Washington were expected to have received up to 52in of snow so far in February, the US National Weather Service reported. It was an all-time record, surpassing the 35.2in that fell in February 1899.

“If the big snow in December felt like an adventure, the bombardment since then has begun to feel like purgatory,” said the Washington Post.

Residents are constantly warned of the perils of falling trees, downed power lines and the risk of roofs collapsing under the weight of snow. Shops reported shortages of fire logs, flashlights, batteries, lanterns and lamp oil.

Electricity company Pepco abandoned attempts to restore power to thousands of homes that have been without electricity for up to six days. (To readers who expressed concern, my heating was repaired on Sunday night.)

Before yesterday’s renewed blizzard, the department of public works had built a mountain of snow on the shore of the Anacostia river. The snow was ferried there by lorries, but could not be dumped in the river because of its high salt content.

At Washington Dulles International Airport, snow is loaded into melting machines fired with jet fuel. The 1,300-degree burners melt 600 tonnes of snow an hour.

“Snowmageddon” has sparked both humour and criticism for what Fox News calls “wimpy weather warriors”.

“Too bad the district of Colombia only has one snow plough,” said an e-mail circulated in a friend’s office. The district in fact owns 204 ploughs, but about a quarter of them have broken fan belts or salt spreaders.

Few residential streets were ploughed between the onset of the first storm last Friday and yesterday’s blizzard.

A German colleague expressed amazement that the world’s only superpower could send a man to the moon but could not prevent its capital being paralysed by snow.

“What do men want?” columnist Kathleen Parker asked in the Washington Post. “Shovels. Men want shovels, the bigger the better . . . The shovel has become not just a tool of necessity but a symbol of purpose and meaning.”