Falls bids farewell to East Coast with a mighty snowstorm

Kathy Bloom of Absecon, N.J., digs her truck out of a snowbank Sunday after Saturday’s snowstorm, which hit a dozen states. Wintergreen, Va., got the heaviest snowfall at 30 inches.

Associated Press

Kathy Bloom of Absecon, N.J., digs her truck out of a snowbank Sunday after Saturday’s snowstorm, which hit a dozen states. Wintergreen, Va., got the heaviest snowfall at 30 inches.

It came up the coast on the last weekend of autumn, a ghostly apparition of midwinter, roaring into the solitude of cities and countrysides from the Carolinas to Cape Cod with blizzardlike ferocity. It closed airports, roads and malls, and re-created Whittier's snowbound American landscape for 60 million people.

By the time the two-day blow churned to oblivion in the Atlantic on Sunday, a dozen states had been buried. It was not the storm of the century, but 2 feet of snow lay across eastern Long Island and parts of Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey, and nearly that much in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island.

Records fell in Washington (16.4 inches), Baltimore (20.5 inches) and Upton, N.Y., the Suffolk County site of a National Weather Service center (26.3 inches). New York City was spared the brunt of the storm, recording 10.9 inches in Central Park.

The heaviest snowfall was in Wintergreen, Va., which had 30 inches. One death was reported, a 68-year-old woman in a Virginia traffic accident.

The 13.4 inches that fell Sunday at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., just south of Providence, easily eclipsed the date's previous record — 6.3 inches in 1995, according to the National Weather Service.

On Sunday, airports reopened and flights resumed, although thousands of travelers remained stranded in a backup of schedules that was expected to last for days.

LONDON — The only passenger rail link between Britain and the rest of Europe has been shut down indefinitely, Eurostar said Sunday, promising more travel misery for thousands of stranded passengers just before Christmas.

Services have been suspended since late Friday, when a series of glitches stranded five trains inside the Channel Tunnel and trapped more than 2,000 passengers for hours in stuffy and claustrophobic conditions. More than 55,000 passengers overall have been affected.

Eurostar runs services between England, France and Belgium. The company said Sunday it had traced the problem to "acute weather conditions in northern France," which has seen its worst winter weather in years.

Eurostar commercial director Nick Mercer said three test trains sent through the Channel Tunnel on Sunday ran successfully, but that it became clear that the especially bad weather meant that snow was being sucked into the trains in a way "that has never happened before."

"The engineers on board have recommended strongly that, in light of further snowfalls that are happening tonight, we make some modifications to the trains on snow shields to stop snow being ingested into the power car," he told the BBC.

A Eurostar statement said the fleet was already undergoing upgrades and that more tests were planned for today. But a spokeswoman said she could not guarantee that service would resume Tuesday.

A statement posted to the company's Web site urged passengers to delay their trips or seek refunds.

The stoppage has already meant that about 31,000 people in Britain, France and Belgium have had to cancel trips Saturday, and 26,000 more were expected to be affected Sunday. With a huge backlog of passengers still building, Eurostar is blocking any sales until after Christmas and Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown has warned that services may not be back to normal for days.

For those seeking alternative routes between Paris, Brussels and London, the winter weather was dealing out more bad news.

Nearly half of all flights out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were cut Sunday through mid-afternoon, with more cancellations forecast for toay. Belgium was also badly hit, with passengers in Brussels lining up for hours in an effort to rebook flights.

Falls bids farewell to East Coast with a mighty snowstorm 12/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 10:21pm]

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