The US East Coast was blasted by the end of a four-day winter storm on Friday, freezing sales of Valentine’s Day flowers and sweets but revving up snowmobiles and ski areas desperate to salvage a lacklustre season.
As the storm blew out with a last salvo of thunder snow and lightning, the death toll rose to at least 20, including a 36-year-old pregnant woman killed by a snowplow in a Brooklyn parking lot. Her baby boy remained in critical but stable condition, a New York City Police spokeswoman said. Snowfall measured 72.3cm in Pilot, Virginia, about 321km west of Richmond, said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Weather Service. A new storm system was on its way, expected to dump up to 7cm on the East Coast into Saturday, he said.
Across the South, hundreds of thousands of people were still without power on Friday as the result of broken tree limbs stressed by heavy snow and thick layers of ice falling onto power lines. South Carolina customers may not be back to normal service until late Sunday, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Jabon.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike was shut for more than seven hours while it was cleared of twisted metal from up to 50 vehicles in multiple accidents that injured 27 people, said Renee Vid Colborn, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The injuries were not life threatening, she said.
About 1,500 US flights were cancelled and roughly 4,700 more were delayed by midday on Friday, said flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.
The timing of the storm – Valentine’s Day and at the start of the Presidents Day long weekend – was exasperating for florists and other vendors whose biggest business comes on the lovers’ holiday.
But outdoor enthusiasts like dog sled guide Laura Bedortha of Husky Works Mushing Co in West Wardsboro, Vermont, were thrilled.
In Jackman, Maine, up near the Canadian border, Bishop’s Store welcomed a steady stream of snowmobilers lining up for gas and breakfast sandwiches.
“This storm couldn’t have come at a better time,” said owner Lorraine Levesque.
The $350 million dollar snowmobile industry, which also does its part to fill hotel beds and restaurants, desperately needed the snow in a winter marked by freeze-thaw cycles in January and more rain than snow. “This is as good as it gets before the vacation week,” Maine Snowmobile Association spokesman Bob Meyers said.
His sentiments were echoed in the online ski report posted by The Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire, which advised, “Forget whatever it was you were supposed to do this weekend and make your way up here.” And no snow enthusiast said it better than kindergartner Jack Mension, 6, sledding in Philadelphia’s Clark Park on his second cancelled school day.
“You can fly in the air!” Jack squealed as he zipped down the frozen hill.
Snow days troubled parents scrambling for childcare and school administrators who had to look at ways to extend the school calendar into summer to make up for lost classroom time.
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