Deadly freeze hits US, Canada

2014-01-04 07:53


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New York - A fierce winter storm has caused chaos in the United States since the start of the year, killing 11 people, cancelling thousands of flights and bringing freezing temperatures to Canada.

Northeastern US states felt the biggest impact, with more than 61cm of snow falling in parts of a Massachusetts town and a state of emergency being declared in New York and New Jersey.

Four people were killed on Friday, with one worker crushed by a 30m pile of salt being prepared to treat roads in the Philadelphia area, media reports said.

A 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease froze to death after walking out into the cold and getting lost in northern New York state, authorities said.

At least nine other deaths were blamed on the storm - named Hercules - that caused traffic accidents and other disruption across 22 states and also affected parts of Canada.

In the Quebec region, the temperature was -29°C on Friday, having hit a record low of -34°C a day earlier, while the mercury dropped to -44°C Fahrenheit in Parent, 400km north of Montreal. The plains of Manitoba were feeling lows of -50°C.

Hercules closed major roads for several hours with snowdrifts built up by Arctic winds of up to 105km/h

Weather experts said the wind chill would plummet to -25°C in New York state.

More than 4 200 international and domestic flights were cancelled at airports along the East Coast and as far as Chicago on Thursday night and on Friday. Thousands more were delayed.

New York's John F. Kennedy Airport closed for several hours because of poor visibility and high winds.

Flights were also cancelled at Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and other key airports.

Boston woke up to a temperature of about three degrees Fahrenheit but with the wind chill, it felt much worse.

Essex county in Massachusetts recorded 61cm of snow. Much of the state's Atlantic coastline was put on flood alert.

The New York and New Jersey governors ordered major roads closed during the worst of the blizzard, but they were re-opened on Friday morning.

Still, authorities appealed for people to stay home unless they had urgent business to take care of.

The storm was the first big test for New York City's new Mayor Bill de Blasio, who only took up his job Wednesday.

Vowing a "laser focus" on the storm, he also urged residents to stay indoors.

De Blasio shoveled snow in front of his Brooklyn house on Friday before repeating appeals for drivers to stay off the roads to help the city clear its 9 900km of roads.

"If you want safe, clear streets, stay home," he said.

Tourists lobbed snowballs at each other in Times Square and more than six inches of snow fell on Central Park.

Some 450 salt spreaders were out across the city and 1 700 refuse trucks had been fitted with plows in a bid to keep New York moving.

The city set up a special website and app, PlowNYC, so residents could follow street clearances in real time.

Many metro trains were cancelled or delayed, however, and schools and many businesses remained closed in all affected states.

Officials backed de Blasio's warning about going out in the cold as night fell again and temperatures plummeted.

Experts said that winds of nearly 50km/h could cause frostbite in about 30 minutes.

Sub-freezing temperatures were expected as far south as Florida, the National Weather Service said.

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