NEW YORK (MCT) – The sixth storm of a long, exhausting winter paralyzed residents up and down the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday as millions struggled with nasty commutes, widespread power outages, government closures, canceled flights and icy messes.
More than a foot of snow fell in areas of Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey one day after the storm battered much of the South. In a winter that has crushed many snowfall records, the latest storm heaved more grief onto shoulders weary of the relentless cycle of digging out and preparing anew.
"I'm so sick of this," grumbled office worker Leo Hernandez as he stepped carefully through a slushy pile of snow on Second Avenue in New York, his umbrella up, his snow boots tied tight.
At least 18 deaths were blamed on the storm, including one in New York that involved a pregnant woman who was hit by a snowplow while loading groceries into her car. Her baby was delivered via Caesarean section.
More than 6,500 flights were canceled Thursday as airports from North Carolina to Toronto struggled to cope with the snow. Meanwhile, at least 700,000 customers were without electricity as utilities struggled to repair power lines downed by heavy ice and falling trees.
Governors and mayors pleaded with residents to keep off the roads, especially as freezing night temperatures would make for treacherous driving.
"Please continue to respect Mother Nature," said North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, urging drivers to stay home. "It's very, very powerful."
In the nation's capital, the biggest storm of the season shut down federal government offices, regional airports and schools, creating an Olympic-like challenge for anyone trying to get around.
Cancellations mounted throughout the day. Vice President Joe Biden canceled a trip to address the House Democrats' retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Many schools planned to remain closed Friday.
Dulles International Airport, which received more than a foot of snow, managed to open one runway by the afternoon, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority resumed limited bus service after suspending it entirely earlier. The main runway at Reagan National Airport was open by early evening.
John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic's Washington office said in an email that many roads were "littered with disabled cars."
In the Columbia Heights section of Washington, Mike Snyder was out with his dog Pepper early Thursday. He walked the dog in the middle of the street because many sidewalks were not shoveled. The street is usually packed with traffic, but "there's nobody here," he said.
Eight governors _ including Alabama, North Carolina and New Jersey _ declared states of emergency this week and warned residents to keep off the roads.
In parts of Maryland, up to 18 inches of snow were reported; much of Virginia received more than a foot. Philadelphia had nearly 9 inches, making it the city's fourth 6-inch-or-more snowstorm of the season _ the first time that has happened there. Parts of Delaware and New Jersey had over a foot. New York City had nearly 10 inches by midday.
Even as the storm left the South, the region still had to recover from an extreme dose of wintry weather. At least 13 inches of snow fell in Laurel Ridge, Va.; 11 inches in Lake Toxaway, N.C.; and 10 inches in Cullman, Ala., according to the National Weather Service.
A half inch of ice was reported across a wide area of central Georgia, enshrouding Augusta and Marietta. Federal disaster declarations were in effect for Georgia and South Carolina, which represented the bulk of customers without power.
National Guard troops and highway patrols rescued motorists from abandoned cars and checked other vehicles left on the roadsides during Wednesday's massive traffic jams. The North Carolina Highway Patrol responded to nearly 3,000 calls for assistance and 1,900 traffic accidents, according to the patrol commander, Col. Bill Grey.
New York state kept roads open, and although Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for parts of the state, he said at a news conference that many people appeared to have stayed home. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie closed state offices Thursday for all nonessential employees.
In New York City, always determined to be tougher than anywhere else, officials tried to keep business running normally. Subway trains ran on time and parking meter regulations were still in effect. City schools were open, though after-school activities were closed.
"Unlike other cities in the country, we don't shut down in the face of some adversity," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news conference.
His seemingly cavalier attitude toward the storm angered some New Yorkers, including Al Roker, a weather forecaster for NBC and the Weather Channel. A parent himself, Roker complained on Twitter about de Blasio's decision, saying it endangered students.
"Long range DiBlasio forecast: 1 term," he wrote.
De Blasio seemed unfazed when asked at the news conference about Roker's tweets.
"It's a different thing to run a city than to give the weather on TV," de Blasio said.