Deadly freeze hits northern US

by Brigitte Dusseau and Timothy Witcher, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 04 2014 10:14 AM | Updated as of Jan 04 2014 06:14 PM

NEW YORK - A fierce winter storm brought chaos to the northern United States on Friday, killing at least 11 people and forcing the cancelation of thousands of flights.

More than 24 inches (61 centimeters) of snow fell in parts of Massachusetts town as a state of emergency was declared in New York and New Jersey states.

One worker was killed when a 100-foot pile of salt being prepared to treat roads in the Philadelphia region fell on him, media reports said.

A 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimers disease froze to death after walking out into the cold and getting lost in northern New York state, authorities said.

At least nine other deaths were blamed on the storm -- named Hercules -- that caused traffic accidents and other disruption across 22 states and parts of Canada.

Hercules closed major roads for several hours with snowdrifts built up by Arctic winds of up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour.

Weather experts said the windchill temperature would plummet to -13 Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius) in New York state.

More than 4,200 international and domestic flights were cancelled at airports along the east coat and as far as Chicago on Thursday night and Friday. Thousands more were delayed.

New York's John F. Kennedy Airport closed for several hours because of poor visibility and high winds.

Flights were also canceled at Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and other key airports.

Boston woke up to a temperature of about three degrees Fahrenheit (minus 16 Celsius) but with the wind chill, it felt much worse.

Essex county in Massachusetts recorded 24 inches (61 centimetres) of snow. Much of the state's Atlantic coastline was put on flood alert.

The New York and New Jersey governors ordered major roads closed during the worst of the blizzard, but they were reopened on Friday morning.

Government leaders still appealed for people to stay home unless they had urgent business.

The storm was the first big test for New York City's new Mayor Bill de Blasio, who only took up his job Wednesday.

De Blasio had vowed a "laser focus" on the storm. But the mayor also urged residents to stay indoors and warned against going out in the freezing temperatures.

De Blasio shoveled snow from in front of his Brooklyn house Friday before repeating appeals for drivers to stay off the streets to help the city clear its 6,200 miles (9,900 kilometers) of roads.

"If you want safe, clear streets, stay home," he said.

Tourists lobbed snowballs at each other in Times Square and more than six inches of snow fell on Central Park.

But 450 salt spreaders were out across the city and 1,700 refuse trucks had been fitted with plows in a bid to keep New York moving. The city set up a special website and app, PlowNYC, so residents could follow street clearances in real time.

Many metro trains were canceled or delayed however and schools and many businesses remained closed in all the affected states.

And sub-freezing temperatures are expected as far south as Florida, the National Weather Service said.

Officials backed de Blasio's warning about going out in the cold as night fell again and temperatures plummeted.

Experts said that winds of 30 miles per hour could cause frostbite in about 30 minutes.

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