Bitterly cold US digs out of north-east snow

People walk through a snow covered Central Park in New York on Jan 22, 2014. Millions of American commuters braved miserable conditions across the East coast on Wednesday after a fierce storm dumped almost a foot of snow from the Mid-Atlantic to New
People walk through a snow covered Central Park in New York on Jan 22, 2014. Millions of American commuters braved miserable conditions across the East coast on Wednesday after a fierce storm dumped almost a foot of snow from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Millions of American commuters braved miserable conditions across the East coast on Wednesday after a fierce storm dumped almost a foot of snow from the Mid-Atlantic to New England.

Federal government stumbled and slipped back to work as bitter wind chills kept temperatures 10 to 25 degrees below average with hundreds of flights cancelled and roads still icy.

Wednesday saw little of the snow that had blanketed the region overnight, but fierce winds and biting temperatures prolonged the suffering, and many schools and offices remained shut.

In New York, the mercury would not rise beyond -10 deg C but bone-chilling gusts made it feel as low as -25 deg C, the National Weather Service said.

Schools in the city were open and most subway lines ran smoothly but new mayor Bill de Blasio was roasted in the press for bungling the second winter storm of his less than four-week administration.

When the 0.25m of snow began falling earlier than expected on Tuesday, residents complained that road crews were too slow to mobilise, causing a string of accidents and traffic gridlock.

"I can't believe de Blasio could do this. He is putting everyone in danger," Ms Barbara Tamerin, 70, was quoted as telling The New York Post on the well-heeled Upper East Side.

"What is he thinking? I can barely get around - and I'm on snowshoes!" For others Central Park was a joyful winter wonderland.

Ms Tatia, a baby-sitter, was taking her two charges sledging.

"I'm gonna take them up the hill and I'm gonna sit them down... and I'll sled them down and then we're gonna try to make a snowman," she told AFP. "We just try to have fun in the snow!"

In Washington DC, it was back to work for the federal government, which told civil servants - who already had Monday off for the Martin Luther King holiday - to stay at home on Tuesday.

Federal agencies opened two hours late and employees were also permitted to take unscheduled leave. Those that were able were allowed to work from home.

Most area schools, in the city and neighboring Maryland and Virginia, were to remain closed again Wednesday.

The commute was slow, the glare of the sunshine combined with sand and salt on the roads mucking up windshields, making visibility poor and causing drivers to pull over on the highway.

Chicago residential areas were still digging out on Wednesday after being dumped with 0.1m to 0.3m of snow, cancelling hundreds of flights and slowing trains, an AFP reporter said.

In total, the governors of three states - Delaware, New Jersey and New York - declared states of emergency.

Philadelphia recorded up to 0.35m of snow on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

FlightAware, a website that monitors air traffic in real time, said more than 1,500 flights into, out of or within the United States had been cancelled on Wednesday and nearly 2,000 delayed.

National rail company Amtrak said it would operate "a modified schedule" on its Northeast Corridor line between Washington and Boston, as well as on two other routes in the hard-hit region.

New Jersey's Chris Christie, who is battling allegations that his office bullied political foes, also canceled a gala on Ellis Island in New York Harbor to mark the start of his new term.