Blizzards shut down Washington, New York

WASHINGTON: Record blizzards that dumped several feet of snow paralysed much of the eastern United States, trapping millions in their homes and shutting down the federal government for a fourth day.

Nearly 6,000 flights in airports between Washington and New York were cancelled at the height of the storms on Wednesday, stranding tens of thousands of passengers and hitting flights across the country, officials said.

The latest snowfalls made the 2009-2010 winter the worst on record for the US capital. Conditions were so perilous that driving was banned for several hours in Baltimore.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered schools closed for a rare “snow day” and the United Nations headquarters closed, but the worst of the weather was in the Washington-Baltimore area, home to some eight million people.

Residents had barely dug themselves out from an avalanche of weekend snow when fresh blizzards struck, this time with Arctic winds of up to 88 km per hour that made even the shortest trip hazardous.

One person was killed and another injured in a pile-up in central Pennsylvania, and several were injured in a 50-car pileup in Virginia, but most people avoided driving.

The season’s snowfall total in Washington DC reached 54.9 inches, the National Weather Service said, breaking “the previous all-time seasonal snowfall record ... of 54.4 inches set in the winter of 1898-99.” The NWS said its weather data goes back to 1884.

Residents in Maryland and Virginia and the US capital faced more long days trying to entertain stir-crazy kids, some families still battling without power almost a week after the first storm barreled in.

Snow plows in Baltimore were diverted to the port to pick up emergency shipments of salt to grit roads. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered all vehicles

except emergency vehicles

off the roads on Wednesday, saying it was the worst two-day blizzard to strike the area since 1922. Initially dubbed “Snowmageddon” by the

media, the humor darkened

as the novelty of the winter storm wore off. “Snoverkill” and “Say it ain’t Snow” are

the latest monikers used by Washingtonians.