By Ron Todt and Mark Scolforo
PHILADELPHIA: Yet another storm paralyzed the Northeast with heavy snow and sleet Thursday, giving the winter-weary that oh-no-not-again feeling, while hundreds of thousands across the ice-encrusted South waited in the cold for the electricity to come back on.
At least 21 deaths were blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of a pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot as she loaded groceries into her car.
The sloppy mix of snow and face-stinging sleet grounded more than 6,500 flights and closed schools and businesses as it made its way up the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor, where shoveling out has become a weekly — sometimes twice-weekly — chore.
“Snow has become a four-letter word,” lamented Tom McGarrigle, a politician in suburban Philadelphia.
About 1.2 million homes and businesses lost power as the storm moved from the South through the Northeast. By Thursday evening, about 550,000 customers remained in the dark, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
Baltimore awoke to 15 inches of snow. Washington, D.C., had at least 8, and federal offices and the city’s two main airports were closed. The Virginia-West Virginia state line got more than a foot.
Philadelphia had nearly 9 inches, its fourth 6-inch snowstorm of the season — the first time that has happened in the city since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. New York City received nearly 10 inches, and parts of New Jersey had more than 11.
The Boston area was expecting 4 to 6, while inland Connecticut and Massachusetts were looking at a foot or more.
In some places, the snow and freezing rain eased up during the day, but a second wave was expected overnight into today.
“It’s like a dog chasing its tail all day,” said Pat O’Pake, a plow operator in Pennsylvania.
In New Cumberland, Pa., which had about 10 inches of snow by midafternoon, Randal DeIvernois had to shovel after his snow blower conked out.
“Every time it snows, it’s like, oh, not again,” he said. “I didn’t get this much snow when I lived in Colorado. It’s warmer at the Olympics than it is here. That’s ridiculous.”
Across the South, the storm left in its wake a world of ice-encrusted trees and driveways and snapped branches and power lines.
In North Carolina, the storm caused huge traffic jams in the Raleigh area on Wednesday as people left work and rushed to get home in the middle of the day.
National Guardsmen in high-riding Humvees patrolled the snowy roads, looking for any stranded motorists.
Some roads around Raleigh remained clogged with abandoned vehicles Thursday morning. City crews worked to tow them to safe areas where their owners could recover them.