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Northeast US Hit with Intense Snow Storm - 2003-02-17

An intense winter storm has dropped heavy snow on the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, shutting down transportation and leading to at least 21 weather-related deaths. The inclement weather is also keeping millions of people at home.

By Monday, the slow but intense storm was over New York City, as it continued to head north toward Boston.

"Here's an interesting statistic: JFK Airport, up in New York, now has received [66 cm] of snow," he said. "It's receiving it at a rate of [five cm] per hour. That's really, really heavy," said National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock.

Over the weekend, the storm blanketed large parts of the mid-Atlantic region, including Washington, D.C., and the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, with 60 or more centimeters of snow.

Clarence Lockly, a bus driver in Philadelphia, says this is not a time to be outside. "A lot of treacherous driving, a lot of wind, a lot of ice and everything. It's rough, real rough," he said.

Weather emergency rules are in effect in at least seven U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Airline flights were disrupted throughout the northeastern United States, and train service was severely reduced in many areas.

Meteorologist Andy Woodcock says the east coast blizzard started with a rainstorm on the west coast that was blown across the United States by the jet stream.

"For a big storm, you need a lot of moisture coming up from the south and you need cold air in place," he said. "And we had that cold air that came down from Canada over the last several days, so that all the precipitation would be in the frozen form. Then you had a very moist system, like I said, coming out of San Diego, but once it reached the lower Mississippi Valley, it started picking up moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico, and that moisture rode up over the top of the cold air, and it fell to the ground as snow and sleet."

Mr. Woodcock said the problems are not over after the storm subsides, adding that flooding is especially a concern. He said that after a heavier than usual snowfall in Washington in 1996, there was melting snow mixed with rain.

"What happened was, about a week later, we got, the temperatures rose under some very moist air, and it rained at the same time. So, what happened was when the rain was falling, the snow was melting rapidly and it was more than the streams could handle and eventually, all that flowed into the Potomac River, and the Potomac River rose to flood stages," he said.

Mr. Woodcock said the weather forecast in the mid-Atlantic region for the next week is for slight warming. He said this is better than if a rapid warm-up melted the snow too quickly.