Heavy snow storms in US cause flight cancellations, power outages

Washington: Heavy snow storms on the US East Coast have forced the cancellation of thousands of flights and have also led to severe power outages in several states and shutting down of the federal government in Washington, D.C. for the day.

More than 20 million people were are under winter storm alerts on Monday, with snow totals in the nation’s capital mostly ranging from five to 10 inches, reports Xinhua news agency.

As the snowfall came to an end in the afternoon in the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland region, the highest total was recorded in Glendie in Virginia’s Stafford County with 13.4 inches, according to data from the National Weather Service.

The severe winter weather, coupled with the recent resurgence of the Covid-19, led to thousands of delays and cancellations of flights.

Total delays of flights within, into or out of the US surpassed 6,000 in late afternoon on Monday, with total cancellations of this category topping 3,000, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.

Air traffic was the worst hit at the Ronald Reagan National Airport in D.C. and the Baltimore/Washington International Airport in Maryland.

The Ronald Reagan National Airport, where snow total reached 6.7 inches, cancelled 358 departing flights and 330 incoming flights Monday, making up 86 per cent of all flights originating from the airport for the day and 76 per cent of all flights arriving at the airport, FlightAware’s data showed.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued ground stops earlier in the day for flights bound for the two airports. Both restrictions were lifted in the afternoon.

The heavy snowfall also caused large-scale power outages across states on the East Coast, from Maryland in the north all the way down to Georgia in the South. Combined, Virginia and Maryland reported over half a million outages, according to data tracked by PowerOutage.US.

The Governors of Maryland and New Jersey briefed their respective residents on the weather condition and emergency response, with Governor Larry Hogan urging “Marylanders in affected areas to stay off the roads”, and Governor Phil Murphy calling the storm “really the most significant” snow event in the southern part of New Jersey in almost four years.

A seven-year-old in Townsend, Tennessee, and five-year-old in DeKalb County were killed as a result of trees falling onto their homes amid the heavy snow.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, meanwhile, said on Twitter that the District’s cold weather emergency alert will remain effective until further notice.

She told a press conference earlier on Monday that all library sites will be closed for distribution of at-home Covid-19 tests for the remainder of the day, potentially further complicating the pandemic situation in which residents were already grappling with a surge in caseload.

The inclement weather also forced the federal government to close for the day.

Instead of holding a scheduled vote on whether to confirm Gabriel Sanchez as a judge for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, California, the Senate convened only briefly on Monday with only two Democratic senators present  and delayed the first vote of the year until Tuesday.


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