U.S. East Coast struggles to return to normal after blizzard

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Major U.S. East Coast cities struggled on Monday to return to normal following a massive weekend blizzard that dropped about two feet (60.96 cm) of snow on New York and Washington and left 30 people dead.

The nation’s capital was at a standstill after federal government offices were ordered shut on Monday. Schools in the district and surrounding suburbs were also closed and the U.S. House of Representatives canceled all votes until next week.

Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, urged residents to stay off the streets while crews cleared snow from secondary roadways, parking lanes and highway shoulders.

“We have throughout this storm encouraged our residents to stay off the streets, and for the most part they have heeded that,” Bowser told CNN. “They prepared to hunker down, and they did.”

Washington’s subway resumed limited service on Monday, offering free travel in an effort to encourage the use of mass transit over driving.

“It’s beautiful to watch but impossible┬áto get through,” said John Salmons, a 24-year-old designer who works at an architecture firm, as he waited for a train in suburban Arlington, Virginia. “The main roads were fine it was just the secondary roads that were worst.”

Even with federal government offices officially closed, the Supreme Court was open for business, scheduled to issue rulings and act on pending appeals from the snowbound courthouse across from the U.S. Capitol building. In past storms, including hurricanes and blizzards, the court has remained open, even hearing oral arguments.

Maryland’s state government was also shut on Monday.

High snowbanks at street corners made travel within Washington difficult for pedestrians.

“The hardest part was getting the stroller through the unclean sidewalks,” said Isam Qahwash, a 41-year-old scientist from Princeton, New Jersey, as he carried his 14-month-old son in a stroller across a downtown street.

“It seems like they move really slow cleaning the snow here in D.C.,” said Qahwash, originally from Michigan.

New York was quicker to return to business, with the New York Stock Exchange and the city’s public schools opened as usual.

The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said weekend road closures throughout New York City and its eastern suburbs had saved lives by keeping people off the streets, reduced traffic accidents and allowed work crews to plow more efficiently.

“You make the best call you can, given the forecast that you have,” Cuomo said on CNN. “New Yorkers don’t like to be inconvenienced … If the forecast doesn’t turn out as much snow, then they are hanging me in effigy today.”

At least 30 people have died from storm-related causes including traffic accidents and heart attacks while shoveling, with deaths reported in states stretching from Arkansas to New York, according to officials and media reports.

Air travel remained seriously affected as some 1,392 U.S. flights were canceled on Monday, with Newark Liberty International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport the hardest hit, according to FlightAware.com.

The blizzard was the second biggest snowstorm in New York City history, with 26.8 inches (68 cm) measured in Central Park by midnight on Saturday, shy of the record 26.9 inches (68.3 cm) set in 2006, the National Weather Service said.

The NWS said 22.4 inches (57 cm) fell in Washington at the National Zoo, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport notched a record 29.2 inches (74.2 cm). The deepest regional total was 42 inches (106.7 cm) at Glengarry, West Virginia.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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