PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The latest storm to roll off nature’s assembly line during this bustling winter spread heavy snow and sleet along the Northeast corridor Thursday, while utility crews in the ice-encrusted South labored to restore power to hundreds of thousands of shivering residents.
The storm shuttered schools and businesses, made driving scary, grounded thousands of flights and made more back-breaking work for people along the East Coast, where shoveling out has become a weekly chore — sometimes a twice-weekly one.
“Snow has become a four-letter word in Delaware County and all along the East Coast this winter,” said Tom McGarrigle, chairman of the Delaware County Council, in suburban Philadelphia. Baltimore awoke to 15 inches of snow. Washington, D.C., had at least 11, and federal offices and the city’s two main airports were closed.
Philadelphia had nearly 9 inches by early morning, making it the fourth 6-inch snowstorm of the season — the first time that has happened in the city’s history. Harrisburg, Pa., had at least 8 inches.
At least 14 deaths, most of them in traffic accidents, were blamed on the storm as it made its way across the South and up the coast. The victims included a truck driver in Ashburn, Va., who was working to clear snowy roads. He had pulled off the road and was standing behind his vehicle when he was hit by a dump truck.
Across the South, the storm left in its wake a world of ice-encrusted trees and driveways and snapped branches and power lines. More than 200,000 homes and businesses in the Atlanta area alone were waiting for the electricity to come back on. Temperatures were expected to drop below freezing again overnight.
In North Carolina, where the storm caused huge traffic jams in the Raleigh area on Wednesday as people left work and rushed to get home in the middle of the day, National Guardsmen in high-riding Humvees patrolled the snowy roads, looking for stranded motorists.
State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said there was no way to estimate how many were stuck in their vehicles. Some roads around Raleigh remained clogged with abandoned vehicles Thursday morning. City crews were working to tow the vehicles to safe areas where their owners could recover them.
The procession of storms and cold blasts — blamed in part on a kink in the jet stream, the high-altitude air currents that dictate weather — has cut into retail sales across the U.S., the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Sales dipped 0.4 percent in January.
Many cities are seeing their supplies of road salt dwindling fast, and school systems have run out of school days. In New Cumberland, Pa., Randal DeIvernois had to take a rest after shoveling his driveway. His snowblower had conked out.
“Every time it snows it’s like, oh, not again,” he said. “I didn’t get this much snow when I lived in Colorado. It’s warmer at the Olympics than it is here. That’s ridiculous.” The sloppy and dangerous weather threatened to disrupt deliveries of Valentine’s Day flowers.
“It’s a godawful thing,” said Mike Flood, owner of Falls Church Florist in Virginia. “We’re going to lose money, there’s no doubt about it.”
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Va.; and David Dishneau in Frederick, Md.; contributed to this report.