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 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 09:49 GMT
Blizzard smothers north-east US
People push a car through the snow in Oneonta, New York
Driving was difficult - if not impossible
A huge snowstorm smothering the east coast of the United States has turned out to be twice as bad as expected.

Meteorologists had predicted up to 30 centimetres (12 inches) of snow for an area stretching from north-eastern Pennsylvania to Maine. The actual snowfall was up to 60 centimetres (two feet) in some areas of upstate New York.

A lot of people have been missing the snow for the past few years, and they're really glad it's finally here

Jamie Georgelos,
Alpin Haus ski shop
The cities of Albany, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, both set records for Christmas Day snowfall.

Tens of thousands of people in the states of New York and Massachusetts lost power.

New York City's Kennedy and LaGuardia airports shut down on Wednesday night, and roads were closed in New York and Pennsylvania.

"The snow is coming down so hard that we're struggling to clear it," New York State Thruway spokesman Terry O'Brien told the Associated Press news agency.

About 160 kilometres (100 miles) of the motorway had to be closed because snow could not be cleared fast enough.

Power out

The storm left about 39,000 people in Massachusetts and 18,00 people in New York without power.

A man skis down a street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Some people were prepared
But some people were pleased by the unusual weather, including Alpin Haus ski shop manager Jamie Georgelos of Amsterdam, New York.

"Everybody's ready for it. A lot of people have been missing the snow for the past few years, and they're really glad it's finally here," he told AP.

The storm swept out of the centre of the country, where Missouri and Oklahoma were particularly hard hit.

The storm is being blamed for at least 18 deaths across the country since Monday, mostly due to traffic accidents.

Early

The north-eastern US is no stranger to snow or freezing temperatures, but storms usually come after New Year.

A man walks through the snow in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Roads were closed in Pennsylvania
"We don't get a whole lot of snow on Christmas Day, so this is pretty cool," said Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Boston had its first Christmas snow in 28 years.

Police warned people not to travel unnecessarily and the National Weather Service urged motorists to carry a winter weather survival kit, including a shovel, food, water and blankets.

The storm earlier descended from Missouri as far south as Texas, snarling up roads and closing down airports as people headed home for the holidays.

Oklahoma, where such weather has not been seen for 25 years, was covered in snow up to 30 centimetres deep in places.

Missouri was hardest hit by the storm when it set in on Monday, with five people killed in four separate accidents on the roads.

See also:

25 Dec 02 | Americas
25 Dec 02 | Americas
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