Snowstorm slams eastern US, killing 8 and knocking out power

NORTHEAST — A strong wintry storm still is dumping snow Friday morning in parts of the Northeast after creating traffic havoc that claimed at least eight lives across the country’s eastern half and knocked out power for tens of thousands of people.

A turbulent mix of rain, snow and ice that initially hit the Midwest caused headaches late this week from the South to the Northeast, leaving up to a foot of snow in interior parts of the Northeast and widespread freezing rain and ice accumulations elsewhere. Conditions prompted school closures, hours-long delays for commuters and hundreds of flight cancellations.

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More than 420,000 customers were without power Friday morning in 15 states from Kentucky northeast to Maine, according to poweroutage.us, in part due to freezing rain.

The storm, which brought the Northeast its first significant snow and ice accumulations of the season, should be over — except in far northern New England — by Friday afternoon.

8 weather-related deaths

The wintry weather contributed to traffic crashes that killed people in several states, authorities said.

A 60-year-old woman died Thursday in Miami County, Indiana, after she lost control of her vehicle while driving in slick road conditions and crashed, the state’s police said in a statement.

One person was also killed Thursday in Canton, Ohio, and another person in Maryland, police said.

In Mississippi, a tour bus crashed Wednesday, killing two people and wounding several others. The bus, carrying 46 people, was traveling from Huntsville, Alabama, to Tunica, Mississippi, Sgt. Joseph Miller of the Mississippi Highway Patrol said.

The other occupants were taken to area hospitals with a variety of injuries, Miller said. The cause of the crash was weather-related.

Arkansas Highway Patrol reports two separate incidents in which three people were killed after drivers lost control of cars on icy roads.

Traffic nightmare, airport delays in New York area

For several hours Thursday, crashes left drivers stuck on the George Washington Bridge, which connects upper Manhattan and northern New Jersey. Slick roads brought transportation service to a standstill as commuters waited for buses that couldn’t reach the already-overcrowded Port Authority Bus Terminal.

New Jersey State Police responded Thursday to 555 motor vehicle crashes and helped 1,027 motorists on Thursday, the agency said.

“If you don’t have to go out, please stay home so road crews can treat the roads,” police said in a statement. “If you have to go out, please drive slowly and allow for more time to get where you are going.”

The storm generally snarled traffic Thursday evening in the New York City area, with about 6 inches of snow accumulating around New York’s Central Park and Newark, New Jersey, the National Weather Service said.

More than 8,000 flight delays and more than 1,900 cancellations were reported Thursday in the US, flight-tracking site FlightAware.com reported. Newark appeared the most affected single airport, with more than 470 cancellations and more than 340 delays reported for flights to or from that site.

Scores of would-be passengers stood in line for hours Thursday night and Friday morning at a Newark airport terminal, waiting to adjust travel arrangements after their flights were delayed or canceled, traveler Pankaj Trivedi said.

“Bring more staff to help. There are many seniors & kids,” Trivedi posted on Twitter, along with pictures of the lines.

US flight delays (919) and cancellations (473) were fewer on Friday morning, according to FlightAware.com.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the strength of the snowstorm took the city by surprise.

“We’re going to be more conservative going forward, but the real key here is, had we had better (forecast) information, we would have told people to stay home and cleared the roads,” he told NY1 on Friday morning.

“But in the end, there’s also going to be times when Mother Nature is just stronger than us, and sometimes we’re going to be playing catchup,” he said. “And this was certainly one of those times.”

Weather forces students to wait in schools

In Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, some school buses couldn’t get students all the way home Thursday because of road closures and “unsafe travel conditions.”

Drivers were forced to take them back to schools in the Elizabeth Area School District, where they were kept in a “shelter-like environment” until parents could pick them up.

The schools operated on a 2-hour delay on Friday, the district said in a statement.