- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

BOSTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) — A winter snowstorm swirled through the Northeast Friday, disrupting air, rail and highway travel and forcing school closings.

While a far cry from the Blizzard of 1978 when nearly 4 feet of snow brought the region to a halt on Feb. 6 and 7, Friday's snowfalls of 4 to 8 inches was still enough to give travelers a headache.

"As winter storms go, this is typical," the National Weather Service in Boston told United Press International.

The storm wound down in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia Friday morning, but persisted into the afternoon in New York City and evening in New England where up to a foot of snow was expected on Cape Cod.

"Too much, already," one man in Kingston, Mass., told WBZ radio. "I've had it. Enough winter, enough winter."

Airports throughout the region reported flight delays of up to two hours, while crews were deicing aircraft before takeoff.

More than 30 flights were canceled early at Reagan National, and at other area airports, but conditions were improving as the snowfall ended.

The District of Columbia Public Works Department declared a snow emergency at 9:30 a.m. to allow crews to clear roadways.

Numerous skidding accidents were reported on snow-covered highways, and police advised people not to drive unless absolutely necessary.

A woman identifying herself as Cookie told a television reporter in Trenton, N.J., that she decided to walk because it was safer than driving.

Still, she complained, "It's slippery. It's cold."

Temperatures were generally in the 20s.

Malls opened late and at some military installations, non-emergency personnel were told to report late.

In east Texas and western Louisiana, meanwhile, cold rain has hampered the recovery of space shuttle Columbia debris since Thursday. Cloudy weather and a high of 45 degrees was forecast Friday with rain and sleet possible Saturday in the region.

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss said the weather and fatigue is taking a toll on the teams and their horses. He said shifts are being shortened for the crews and the horses are being given more breaks. National Guard trucks have become mired in deep mud hauling out debris.

Cold was the story in the Midwest. An arctic blast send temperatures skidding to a bone-chilling 14 degrees below zero in Minneapolis and the mercury dipped to as low as minus 24 degrees in central Minnesota. Snow flurries were scattered in the Chicago area and the temperature hovered around 9 degrees at O'Hare International Airport, the city's official weather station.

Back in the Northeast, traffic accidents closed the Pennsylvania turnpike briefly and motorists on the major routes, such as I-95 were slowing to a crawl. Speeds were reduced on major highways through New York State, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"There were a lot of slipping and sliding accidents, but nothing major, no serious injuries that I'm aware off at this time," Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Ed Principe told UPI.

Weather forecasters said travel conditions worsened in New England as the storm moved to the east and headed out to sea.

School closings were widespread. Drexel University in Philadelphia, where 6 to 8 inches of snow was expected, closed completely, while Temple University canceled classes but kept offices open.

Thousands of plows were dispatched to help clear the roads.

The NWS said the storm moved off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina early Friday morning and headed out to sea during the day. Winter storm warnings and watches were issued for much of the region, including all of southeast Massachusetts and much of Rhode Island.

Thursday and Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78, one of the worst storms of the 1900s. Up to 4 feet of snow was measured in Massachusetts along with hurricane force winds.

Thousands of cars and trucks were stranded on roadways. The blizzard caused some $600 million in damage and claimed nearly 100 lives in southern New England alone.


(With reporting by Harold Martin in Washington, Phil Magers in Dallas and Al Swanson in Chicago).

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