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U.S. East Coast in mess after record-setting storm

2009-12-21 02:23:08 GMT2009-12-21 10:23:08 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Pedestrians walk through the snow during a snowstorm blanketing the East Coast in Washington D.C., Dec. 19, 2009. Forecasts called for up to 50 centimetres of snow across the region, including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and reaching up to New York. (Xinhua/Zhang Yan)

A sightseeing bus passes in front of the Capitol Hill during a snowstorm blanketing the East Coast in Washington D.C., Dec. 19, 2009. Forecasts called for up to 50 centimetres of snow across the region, including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and reaching up to New York. (Xinhua/Zhang Yan)

A girl slides on snow in the Central Park in New York City, the U.S., Dec. 20, 2009. People walked outdoors to enjoy the sunny weather on Sunday morning after an overnight blizzard rocked the city.(Xinhua/Wang Yongkang)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. East Coast struggled Sunday to deal with the aftermath of a monster winter storm that brought record-setting snowfall to many areas, disrupting holiday travel and leaving at least five people dead.

Storm warnings for New York, Massachusetts, and much of southeastern New England lifted as the storm vanished out to sea Sunday afternoon.

 RECORD-SETTING BLIZZARD

Since midnight Friday, 12 states on the east seaboard from North Carolina to Maine have been hit by a blizzard that dumped record amounts of snow for December and unleashed wind gusts of upto 104 km per hour in some areas.

Washington, D.C. was reeling from the largest one-day December snowfall in history, with totals of 40 cm to 61 cm in the region.

Washington's Dulles International and Reagan National airports saw snowfall of 45.7 cm and 41.6 cm, respectively -- the highest ever one-day totals for December. The previous record at Dulles was in December 1964 while at Reagan National, it was in December 1932.

Philadelphia, Pa., had 58.9 cm of snow, the second-biggest single snowfall there since it began keeping records in 1884.

Snowfalls of 61 cm or more were reported in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York.

New York City received 25.6 cm of snow in Central Park and 36.8cm at John F. Kennedy airport, amounting to its largest snowfall in several years.

Hundreds of thousands of homes lost power as the storm swept eastward on Friday and Saturday, including 135,000 in West Virginia.

Many people in Virginia and Maryland remained without power Sunday morning.

FLIGHT DELAYS, DANGEROUS ROADS

In western North Carolina, about 46,000 households had no power Sunday.

Airports that had been closed or severely hampered in the storm finally began to gear up again on Sunday, but planes and available seats were scarce after thousands of canceled or delayed flights, and many air travelers woke up on terminal floors Sunday morning.

Travelers again were warned to expect treacherous roads Sunday and face more flight delays and cancellations. Many motorists are still holding up in Red Cross shelters.

Washington's Dulles International Airport was accepting flights and had one runway open Sunday. One runway was also opened at Reagan National Airport in the afternoon.

All the three major New York City Airports, LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports, were all open again Sunday morning after a total of 1,200 flights there had been canceled over the weekend.

Though the snow had largely stopped in many areas, blowing snow and unplowed roads continued to make driving dangerous well into Sunday.

Authorities in Washington, Maryland and Virginia asked residents Sunday morning to stay home and give public works crews a chance to plow major highways and roads.

Hospitals were asking for volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to help get doctors and nurses to work. Other employers were requesting that only essential employees report to work.

In Virginia alone on Saturday, police responded to more than 2,900 traffic accidents and disabled vehicles, and nearly 1,000 drivers were stranded on a highway. Rescue workers had to drive up and down roads offering to take stranded riders to shelters.

In Washington, the city's public transportation system remained largely shut down Sunday morning, with no buses running and trains operating only on underground portions of the Metrorail system.

The storm also cause the deaths of five people -- three in Virginia and two in Ohio.

The storm also dampened merchants' hopes for a robust weekend before Christmas, typically one of the biggest shopping periods of the year, with an estimated 15 billion U.S. dollars changing hands.

In Massachusetts, it turned out to be a sullen Sunday in stores, with few people willing to brave the weather to finish their shopping.

Malls in New Jersey were less teeming than usual on the weekend.

In Washington, stores were nearly deserted on Saturday and shopping was the least of anyone's worries in Virginia.

However, E-Commerce sites did better business than they had expected, though it is unclear how much it can be attributed to the storm.

Store-based retailers in the Northeast are likely extend their hours in coming days to try to make up for the quiet weekend.

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