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Winter Punishes Northeast, Midwest

January 15, 1999

Snow and freezing rain fell again early today across the East, where storm after storm has collapsed roofs, stranded scores of vehicles on highways and grounded hundreds of flights. Hundreds of thousands were without power.

``These roads are all horrendous,″ said Karl Sutton, head of emergency services for Hancock County, W.Va. ``My guys are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and they’re dying. They’re just beat.″

Three people were killed early today when their car swerved on ice and snow and smashed into a tractor-trailer near Clarksburg, W.Va., said Sgt. Robert Crawford of Harrison County Bureau of Emergency Services. Another man was killed in an accident Thursday in West Virginia.

In Maryland, icy weather was blamed for at least two fatal accidents Thursday. A man was killed when his car ran into a guard rail on Interstate 70 near Hagerstown, and a Pennsylvania man died after his car skidded off I-70 and struck a tree.

Major power outages were reported in suburban Washington, with 195,000 Pepco customers without electricity in Maryland and 119,000 Virginia Power customers in the dark in northern Virginia. And more than 100,000 customers were without power in the Baltimore area.

There were less widespread outages in New Jersey, New York City, Washington, D.C., and around Philadelphia.

On Thursday the storm dumped more than a foot of snow on some areas south of Boston, locking up traffic and forcing dozens of drivers to abandon their vehicles.

Thursday evening’s rush hour was ``probably one of the worst commutes since the Blizzard of ’78,″ state police Sgt. Shawn Lydon said.

By today, the snow had changed to freezing rain, forcing Boston’s Logan International Airport to be closed this morning to de-ice runways.

More than 600 flights were canceled Thursday at the three major airports serving New York City, where up to 3 inches of snow fell into this morning before turning to freezing rain. President Clinton’s trip to New York was delayed until today.

The only good news: Unseasonably high temperatures have been forecast for much of the region by Saturday. That would be welcome news in places like Allagash, Maine, which recorded the lowest temperature ever for the state early Thursday _ 55 degrees below zero.

It was also expected to be warmer later today in parts of Missouri. Some students in the state haven’t been in school since December because of snow and ice. Schools in eastern Missouri’s St. Francois County were closed again today for the 10th straight day.

Parking lots, sidewalks and driveways remain dangerously slick in St. Louis, where public schools have been closed six times since Jan 1.

Things even froze over in Hell, Mich., an unincorporated village about 60 miles west of Detroit, where it was near zero Thursday. And in Commerce Township, northwest of Detroit, a 40- to 50-foot section of roof crashed onto the lanes at the Wonderland Lanes bowling alley Wednesday.

The same problem has hit the Buffalo, N.Y., area, where more than 50 inches of snowfall since Jan. 1 has brought down barns, churches and other buildings.

``The whole thing fell in like an accordion,″ Charles Spencer Jr. said of a roof in one room of his home. ``Anybody who was out in that room would have been dead.″

About 135 state prison inmates were out with shovels uncovering fire hydrants and sewer receptacles in downtown Buffalo, and New York Gov. George Pataki declared a state of emergency so several counties would be eligible for state assistance.

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