US & Canada

Second wave of huge snow storm hits US north-east

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Media captionThe streets of Washington DC were snowy and empty after the federal government shut for the day, reports the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan

A giant winter storm has unleashed a second wave of heavy snowfall on the US north-east, as hundreds of thousands of people remain without power in the states in its southern wake.

About 550,000 homes and businesses are still in the dark and almost 1,300 Friday flights are cancelled.

The storm has been blamed for at least 22 deaths, including that of a pregnant woman struck by a snowplough.

It is the latest foul weather to pummel the winter-weary eastern US.

By early this month, Washington DC, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, New York and St Louis had recorded two to three times as much snow as normal by this time in the winter season.

This storm system has already dumped as much as 15in (38cm) of snow in the Washington DC region and 8in around New York City by Thursday.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many schools along the east coast were cancelled and children took the opportunity to head out on sleds
Image copyright AP
Image caption In Virginia, a public employee used a snow blower to clear the sidewalk in front of the Stafford County Courthouse

Up to another foot is forecast in a second snowfall that began on Thursday evening continued through to Friday morning, with the heaviest precipitation in the US states of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

But the National Weather Service predicted the weather would ease by the weekend.

"Heavy snow will continue tonight... but will begin to taper off from south to north through the morning hours on Friday," the official forecaster said.

The snow-covered streets in the nation's capital were largely deserted on Thursday, after the federal government closed its Washington-area offices to spare its widely dispersed workforce the trouble and danger of the drive to work.

On Friday, Washington started work two hours behind the ordinary schedule, the Office of Personnel Management said.

More than 6,500 US flights were cancelled on Thursday, according to airline-tracking website

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Media captionTraffic in areas of North Carolina ground to a halt on Wednesday and many had to abandon their cars for the night

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticised for keeping schools open on Thursday despite the snow piling on the ground.

The head of the city schools teachers union said it was a "mistake" to have students, parents and school staff travelling under such conditions, while a prominent meteorologist and television personality opened a public spat on Twitter with the mayor.

"It's going to take some kid or kids getting hurt before this goofball policy gets changed," Al Roker of NBC wrote on Twitter from Sochi, Russia, where he is covering the Winter Olympics. Roker has a daughter in the city schools.

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Image caption Residents of Hazelton, Pennsylvania could see as much as 14in of snow before the storm passes

Mr de Blasio responded that many parents depended on schools to watch over their children while they work - and noted the city had closed schools only 11 times for snow since 1978.

"We were convinced that kids could get to schools this morning," he said.

The multi-day storm has been blamed for almost two dozen deaths.

In New York City on Thursday, a pregnant woman was killed after being struck by a snowplough. Her baby was delivered in critical condition via caesarean section.

The storm moved into the north-east on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, leaving in its southern wake a wreckage of snapped tree branches and power lines coated in as much as an inch of ice.

Most of the remaining power cuts are in South Carolina and Georgia, where President Barack Obama declared a disaster, opening the way for federal aid.

Forecasters said it was one of the worst storms to strike Atlanta, the largest city in the South, since 1973.

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Image caption Umbrellas were no match for the storm in New York City
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rental cars are covered in snow at Washington DC's Dulles International Airport as thousands of flights across the country were delayed

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