Blizzard Hercules brings chaos to northern US

Agence France-Presse

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The snowstorm caused one casualty, closed major roads and canceled thousands of flights

WRATH OF HERCULES. People walk in Maverick Square as a snowstorm begins January 2, 2014 in East Boston, Massachusetts. Darren McCollester/Getty Images/Agence France-Presse

NEW YORK, USA – A fierce winter storm dragged temperatures down to glacial levels and caused chaos across the northern United States on Friday, January 3, forcing the cancelation of thousands of flights.

With more than 24 inches (61 centimeters) of snow falling in one Massachusetts town, a state of emergency was declared in New York and New Jersey states.

One worker was killed when a 100-foot pile of salt being prepared to treat roads around Philadelphia fell on him, media reports said.

The storm – given the name Hercules – closed major roads with snowdrifts built up by Arctic winds of up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour.

Weather experts said the windchill temperature would plummet to -13 Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius) in New York state.

Transport disruption was reported from Vermont in the north to Washington and fallout from the storm was spreading to southern states.

More than 4,000 international and domestic flights from airports along the east coat and as far as Chicago in the Midwest were canceled because of the storm.

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

One runway reopened mid-morning but huge passenger queues built up at all 3 New York airports.

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

Officials said the transport toll would worsen during the day even as the snow eased off. Temperatures were predicted to stay icy.

Boston woke up to a temperature of about 3 degrees Fahrenheit but with the wind chill, it felt much worse.

The Massachusetts town of Boxton had recorded 24.3 inches of snow by early Friday.

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

Government leaders still appealed for people to stay home unless they had urgent business.

“These circumstances are dangerous,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

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

De Blasio had vowed a “laser focus” on the storm. But the mayor also urged residents to stay indoors and warned against going out in the freezing temperatures.

De Blasio shoveled snow from in front of his Brooklyn house Friday before repeating appeals for drivers to stay off the streets to help the city clear its 6,200 miles of roads.

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

Tourists lobbed snowballs at each other in Times Square and more than 6 inches of snow fell on Central Park.

But 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 canceled or delayed however and schools and many businesses remained closed in all the affected states.

And sub-freezing temperatures are expected as far south as Florida, the National Weather Service said.

Officials warned about the risk of freezing or hypothermia due to the bitter cold.

Experts say that winds of up to 30 miles per hour could cause frostbite in about 30 minutes. –

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