, WASHINGTON, Feb 8 – Hundreds of emergency crews battled Monday to clear snow-clogged roads and restore power to thousands of homes across the US east coast before a new storm hits.
But despite their best efforts, the US capital remained largely paralyzed, with the federal government announcing it will remain closed for at least one more day and scores of schools and local businesses remaining shut down.
An early morning freeze on Sunday, which had turned partially cleared highways into icy skating rinks, gave way to warmer temperatures helping the big melt to get under way, but officials warned travel was still hazardous.
"This is really challenging for us, and will continue to be a challenge for most of the week," said Laura Southard from the Virginia emergency management center, noting that another storm is due to hit the mid-Atlantic region late Tuesday.
With record snowfall of more than three feet (a meter) in many places after a monster blizzard swept across Virginia, Maryland and the US federal capital city, bulldozers were having to move in.
"This snow is so deep and so heavy that the traditional snow plows can\’t shovel in some areas. So bulldozers are physically having to lift it up and away," Southard told AFP.
The record snowfall for a storm dubbed "Snowmageddon" was registered in a small town of Colesville, central Maryland, which was blanketed by 40 inches (101 centimeters), the National Weather Center said.
Virginia police had turned out to more than 4,370 calls, with most being traffic crashes or stranded cars. It is believed only three people died as a result of the storm.
"Progress is being made, but it\’s going to take a couple more days at least, but even then we can\’t make any promises," Southard added.
Hundreds of thousands of people spent a chilly night with candles and hunkered under blankets without power, although crews working round-the-clock did manage to restore electricity to many homes.
But by late Sunday more than 100,000 customers remained without power in the metropolitan area.
Many residents across the region were beginning to try to dig out cars, and clear paths, while officials warned not to let children play in the huge piles left by snow plows in case drivers failed to spot them.
In another sign that life was beginning to get back to normal after the nation\’s capital was crippled by the monster storm, some stores and coffee shops were beginning to gradually reopen after a rare shutdown.
Reagan domestic airport was still closed Sunday, and there was little likelihood of flights out of the international airports at Baltimore, or Dulles, bogged down by a record 32.4 inches (82 centimeters) of snow.
Schools were to remain closed on Monday and Tuesday across most of the region as were local government offices across a swath of northern Virginia and Maryland, at least on Monday.
As many as 40 above-ground metro stations will remain closed another day, authorities announced, while buses will resume limited service only along the city\’s main thoroughfares — and only between 9:00 am and 7:00 pm.
In a further blow, officials urged sports fans against going to Super Bowl parties on Sunday — an annual highlight of the social calendar when friends gather to cheer on teams for the finale of the American football season.
"Traditionally it\’s a really big day, Super Bowl Sunday, but I would encourage people to stay home," said Ed McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland emergency management center.
"It is still well below freezing. A little sun and some sand will help, but we are not going to get a lot of melt. There\’s another storm going and we\’re not going to be out of the woods for a while."
It was the second massive storm to hit the region after a December storm dumped some two feet of snow in the area.
And forecasters warned yet another front was moving across from the west coast, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a winter storm watch around the capital from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. Related article: Monster US storm boon for forecasters: expert
"We are getting a lot of winter fatigue around here now," McDonough told AFP ruefully, as he pulled up outside his snow-bound driveway after a 24-hour shift.