At least nine people have died in North America’s first severe snowstorm of the year, according to one US broadcaster. As the temperatures plunge with the onset of nightfall the situation will become even more dangerous for the poor and vulnerable.
New York is battling through the blizzard, but the city is quieter than normal and the new Mayor wants safety put first.
“If you do not need to travel today, please stay home. If you do have to travel, take mass transit. Yes, there will be some delays, but it will be safe. And, it will help us to get the city 100 percent back in full running order,” said Bill de Blasio, mindful perhaps of how his predecessor was perceived to have dropped the ball during the Christmas storm of 2010 while he was on holiday. The city responded slowly to the blizzard then, and Mayor Bloomberg got the blame.
The icy weather has gripped much of America’s northeast and Canada, but the chill is on as far as northern Florida, and east to Chicago. Boston had the heaviest snowfall, some 60 centimetres in a matter of hours in surrounding towns. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or delayed, leaving people stranded in transit in airport lounges and bus and train stations.
The low temperatures, with records of 20 below zero forecast, are expected to continue into Saturday, as are the states of emergency declared in New York and New Jersey.
There is also the risk of some flooding from high tides in Massachusetts, where some residents in low-lying areas have been evacuated, and more will be in the coming hours.