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Winter storms blamed for 34 deaths in US
( 2004-01-27 11:38) (Agencies)

A pair of storms spread snow, sleet and freezing rain across the eastern half of the nation, glazing highways with treacherous ice as far south as Georgia and closing schools and government offices Monday.

The weather was blamed for at least 34 deaths, most of them traffic related, on Sunday and Monday.

Granite City, Ill.,35, works on scraping over an inch of ice and snow off his truck windshield as he prepares to travel out in this southern Illinois city just across the Mississippi River from St Louis, Monday, Jan. 26, 2004. [AP]
The heaviest snowfall was 23 inches at Duluth, Minn., as moist air swept inland from Lake Superior. Drifting snow closed about 70 miles of Interstate 29 overnight in North Dakota, between Fargo and Grand Forks.

Because of the I-29 shutdown, more than 250 truckers had to spend the night at the Stamart truck stop on the outskirts of Fargo, said desk manager Michelle Martens.

"They were parked everywhere everywhere they could find a spot," Martens said. They were allowed to get back on the road Monday. "To see them leaving, it was just truck to truck to truck," she said.

Schools were closed from Nebraska and Missouri to the Carolinas and northern Georgia. Businesses and government offices were closed in North and South Carolina and in Virginia. Several school districts in North Carolina called off classes for Tuesday as well.

Delta Air Lines delayed or canceled some 300 flights Monday out of Atlanta because of the weather in the Midwest and East. Northwest Airlines canceled 26 flights at its hub, Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

One of the two storms scattered snow Monday along an arc from the western Plains to Minnesota and Wisconsin, then eastward across the Great Lakes into Pennsylvania and New York. Snow was likely in parts of the Northeast on Tuesday.

The other storm spread snow and ice on Sunday from Kansas east to Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. "Central Missouri is pretty much frozen up today," said Jim Morris, spokesman for the Missouri Education Department.

Parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula were expected to get 19 to 21 inches of new snow by the time the storm left the state late Monday, the weather service said.

The Washington, D.C., area got up to 7 inches of snow, its heaviest snowfall of the season.

Ice brought down tree branches and power lines, knocking out electricity to thousands of customers throughout the region.

More freezing rain fell Monday in South Carolina, where an additional half-inch of ice was possible.

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency, and the state put about 1,000 National Guardsmen on standby.

Many people simply hunkered down.

North of Durham, N.C., Billie Wilbanks and her husband, Dan Wood, enjoyed the warmth of their home in Roxboro. Soup made with tomato, beans, chicken and potatoes simmered in a pot on the stove.

"The house smells good and warm with the food cooking," Wilbanks said. "You get to enjoy some things at home that you don't on a normal day."

Relentless cold rather than snow was the problem in the Northeast, where Coast Guard cutters have been busy breaking ice in the busy shipping lanes of Boston Harbor and south of Cape Cod. It is the region's worst ice in about 11 years, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Shinn.

Thick ice has shut down ferry service between Hyannis, Mass., and the island of Nantucket, 25 miles off the coast.

"This is a crisis situation for the island of Nantucket," Steamship Authority spokeswoman Paul Peters said. "We need to get food and fuel to their necessary destinations, and right now the weather is not cooperating."

The weather was blamed for six deaths in South Carolina; five each in Iowa, North Carolina and Missouri; three each in Nebraska and Ohio; two each in Indiana and Minnesota; and one each in Kansas, Maryland and West Virginia.

The fatalities included a teenager killed Sunday in Missouri when his sled ran into the path of a pickup truck, and a man who died Monday near Columbus, Ohio, when his tractor overturned while he plowed his driveway.

 
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