Winter storm in eastern U.S. shuts schools, cancels flights

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 A winter storm dumped more than a half a foot of snow in parts of the eastern United States on Friday, forcing schools and federal government offices to close and snarling air traffic two days after a blizzard shut down a major highway in Virginia.

Winter storm warnings were in effect until midday for an area reaching from Washington, D.C. north into Maine, with local snowfall rates expected to exceed 1 inch (3 cm) an hour, the National Weather Service said.

The storm left some parts of Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland under 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of snow. Coastal New England was hit hardest as some towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts saw more than a foot (30 cm) of snow on Thursday and into Friday, the weather service said.

“It will be tapering off, coming to end during the afternoon,” weather service meteorologist Alan Dunham in Boston said. “Right now, it’s a good, strong low-pressure system moving off to the east-northeast. By the evening commute, the snow should come to an end.”

As the storm eased Friday afternoon, it continued to disrupt travel plans on the East Coast, canceling hundreds of flights. At least 1,400 flights arriving or departing New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. airports were expected to be canceled as of the afternoon, according to Flightaware.com.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear made state of emergency declarations and urged residents to stay off roads.

Governor Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency in Virginia, where some communities were still recovering from debilitating snowfall earlier in the week. More than 56,000 customers, concentrated in the center of the state, experienced power outages as of Friday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.US

Federal government offices in Washington were closed, and dozens of school districts across the eastern half of the country canceled classes due to the snow and bitter cold.

The storm was the second this week to slam into the eastern United States. On Monday, the region was blanketed by up to a foot (30 cm) of snow, leaving a nearly 50-mile (80-km) stretch of Interstate 95 in northern Virginia impassable.

I-95, one of the busiest thoroughfares on the East Coast, was closed for hours in both directions near Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 55 miles (89 km) south of Washington, trapping thousands of travelers, some of them for as long as 24 hours.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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