Eastern U.S. residents prepare for difficult commute following storm

NEW YORK - East Coast residents who made the most of a paralyzing weekend blizzard face fresh challenges as the workweek begins: slippery roads, spotty transit service and mounds of snow that buried cars and blocked sidewalk entrances.

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For many, the weekend extends into Monday because of closed schools and government offices. Officials were cautioning against unnecessary driving even as they expected some commuter trains to be delayed or cancelled.

The storm dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England, with near-record snowfalls tallied from Washington, D.C. to New York City. At least 30 deaths were blamed on the weather, with shovelling snow and breathing carbon monoxide together claiming almost as many lives as car crashes.

The snow began Friday, and the last flakes fell just before midnight Saturday. In its aftermath, crews raced all day Sunday to clear streets and sidewalks devoid of their usual bustle.

Sunday's brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures provided a respite from the blizzard that dropped a record 74 centimetres on Baltimore. The weekend timing could not have been better, enabling many to enjoy a gorgeous winter day.

It was just right for a huge snowball fight in Baltimore, where more than 600 people responded to organizer Aaron Brazell's invite on Facebook.

"I knew people would be cooped up in their houses and wanting to come outside," said Brazell, who was beaned by multiple blasts of perfectly soft but firm snow.

But one day of sunshine wasn't enough to clear many roads. Cars parked in neighbourhoods were encased in snow, some of it pushed from the streets by plows. In downtown Philadelphia, some sidewalk entrances were blocked by mounds of snow.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged people to leave their plowed-in cars all week after a one-day record of 67.6 centimetres fell in Central Park.

That advice came too late for Bob Raldiris, who tried shovelling his Nissan Maxima out of a spot in Ridgewood, Queens, before passing plows and trucks spoiled his labour. "This is terrible," he said, pointing to a pile of snow three feet high.

Federal offices will be closed Monday, and Virginia's state workers were told to stay home. Schools from Washington to the Jersey Shore gave students Monday off; In the D.C. suburbs, classes also were cancelled for Tuesday.

New York's transit authority said partial service on the Long Island Rail Road wasn't expected to resume until 7 a.m., two hours later than it had predicted. The delay was due to switches and tracks that were refrozen overnight due to low temperatures. New York City subways, buses and Metro-North Railroad service have been restored and would operate on a normal schedule Monday with some cancellations.

Broadway reopened after going dark at the last minute during the snowstorm, but museums remained closed in Washington, and the House of Representatives postponed votes until February, citing the storm's impact on travel.

Flying remained particularly messy after nearly 12,000 weekend flights were cancelled. Airports resumed limited service in New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which said it got an entire winter's snow in two days. Washington-area airports remained closed Sunday after the punishing blizzard.

Major airlines also cancelled hundreds of flights for Monday. Along with clearing snow and ice from facilities and equipment, the operators of airlines, train and transit systems had to figure out how to get snowbound employees to work.

Amtrak operated a reduced number of trains on all its routes, serving many people who couldn't get around otherwise, spokesman Marc Magliari said. But bus and rail service was expected to be limited around the region into Monday.

Overall snowfall of 68 centimetres in Central Park made it New York's second biggest winter storm since records began in 1869, and Saturday's 67.6 centimetres made for a single-day record in the city.

Some of the blizzard's heaviest snow bands wound up over New York City and Long Island, sending snow totals spiking higher than the 30 to 45 centimetres forecasters predicted Thursday.

"Just about everybody was expecting a strong storm system," National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Wichrowski said Sunday. "The question always was, just how heavy was the precipitation going to be?"

Washington's records were less clear. The official three-day total of 45 centimetres measured at Reagan National Airport was impossibly short of accumulations recorded elsewhere in the city. An official total of 59 centimetres landed at the National Zoo, for example.

The zoo remained closed through Monday but a video of its giant panda Tian Tian making snow angels got more than 48 million views. Joining the fun, Jeffrey Perez, of Millersville, Maryland, climbed into a panda suit and rolled around in the snow, snagging more than half a million views of his own.

Mother Nature was less deadly this time than human nature. A beloved Capitol policeman joined a grim list of people suffering heart attacks while shovelling snow. And a growing number of people died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In Passaic, New Jersey, on Sunday, a mother and year-old son watching their family shovel snow from the apparent safety of their car died because snow blocked the tailpipe; her 3-year-old daughter was in critical condition. A man who tried to shovel out his car in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, met a similar fate after a snowplow buried him inside. And an elderly couple in Greenville, South Carolina, was poisoned by the generator in their garage after losing power.

Roofs collapsed on a Pennsylvania church, a Virginia theatre and a barn outside Frederick, Maryland, which got 85 centimetres of snow, killing some cows. Douglas Fink felt terrible about that: "I was trying to protect them, but they probably would have been better off just standing outside."

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Contributors include Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Burke, Virginia; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; William Mathis, Scott Mayerowitz and Jake Pearson in New York; Alex Brandon and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; Jessica Gresko in Arlington, Virginia; and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore.



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