US north-east digs out from blizzard

NEW YORK (AFP) - The north-eastern United States (US) slowly got back on the move on Saturday after a fierce blizzard paralysed air, road and rail travel and left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

The storm dumped between one and two feet of snow across New England, with hurricane-strength gusts helping to create massive drifts. By late Saturday, the system had moved out toward Canada, battering three provinces there.

New York area airports LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark, which halted all flights during the height of the storm on Friday, resumed service with delays.

However, listed almost 2,000 cancellations around the region, on top of the 3,000 plus flights scrapped Friday.

The blizzard engulfing Boston's Logan Airport was so severe that plowing operations were abandoned for several hours overnight. However, the Massport transport authority said arrivals would start at 5pm (2200 GMT, 6am Singapore time), with departures resuming on Sunday.

Amtrak said its rail link between New York and Boston would remain closed, but trains were resuming normal schedules to the capital, Washington.

A driving ban in Massachusetts, where some two feet (0.6m) of snow fell in the blizzard and buried Boston streets, was set to be lifted at 4pm.

"We have a lot of snow to dispose of and to remove and it will take some time to do that. That is a necessary prerequisite to getting to power lines and getting power restored," Governor Deval Patrick said.

On Saturday, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy also extended a partial driving ban to all roads until further notice.

"It's critical right now that residents stay off the roads, so that our plows can continue their efforts to clear our streets and highways," Gov Malloy said.

"This is a record setting storm. It's going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process. Unless you face an emergency, please stay put."

In New York City, where just under a foot of snow accumulated in Central Park, most roads were cleared by morning.

"Looks like we dodged a bullet," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

With wind and heavy snow snapping power lines, more than half a million customers lost electricity, including 389,000 in Massachusetts, 177,000 in Rhode Island, and 35,000 in Connecticut.

Utility companies in Connecticut said they were planning for up to 30 per cent of their customers, or more than 400,000 homes, to eventually lose power.

The severity of the impact was lessened by the storm's timing at the start of a weekend, but even the almost deserted roads across the region were highly dangerous.

A car driven by a young woman went out of control in the snow on a highway in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, striking and killing a 74-year-old man, who was walking on the shoulder of the road.

In Auburn, New Hampshire, a man was killed after losing control of his car and hitting a tree, local officials said.

And a Massachusetts boy died when he and his father were warming up in their car and inhaled carbon monoxide after an exhaust pipe had been blocked by snow.

Minor injuries were reported in a 19-car pile-up on Interstate 295 in Falmouth, Maine, caused by poor visibility and slippery road conditions.

The National Weather Service said "travel conditions (on Saturday) will continue to be extremely hazardous, if not impossible." The storm came a little over three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated swaths of New York and New Jersey, killing 132 people and causing damage worth some US$71.4 billion (S$88.4 billion).