- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Sleet stung the faces of pedestrians and snow and ice coated windshields and streets today as the Valentine’s Day blizzard shut down schools and air travel and turned highways into skating rinks.

Hundreds of thousands of people had lost electrical service in the cold weather. At least 11 deaths were blamed on the huge storm system.

Thousands of schools were closed in states from Maine to Kentucky, some in the Midwest for a second day, and in Washington the federal government decided to open offices two hours late.

The slippery streets and sidewalks created a challenge for florists trying to deliver Valentine’s Day flowers.

“People have to understand, we can’t do it if it gets really bad. Other than that, we’ll kill ourselves to get it delivered,” said florist Dan Filer, whose shop in the Cleveland area was double-wrapping arrangements to protect them from the cold.

At Schenectady, N.Y., only one of Zalondek Veronica Floral’s four delivery people got to work on time. Two got stuck, and “one girl, her Daddy got her and he said ‘I forbid you to go out,”’ said owner Deborah Zalondek.

In some parts of Ohio, business closings included florists and gift shops that had been counting on a busy Valentine’s Day.

The snow and ice caused spinouts, fender-benders and traffic snarls during the morning commute.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, where as much as 2 feet of snow was possible in the western part of the state. Maine Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency to ensure the smooth delivery of heating oil, and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer activated the National Guard to help with snow emergencies.

“We’re geared up to handle snow. Barring a four-foot snow we’re ready for it,” said Dana Wardwell, director of public works in Bangor, Maine.

Most of upstate New York reported several inches of new snow Wednesday morning with 10 inches at Owego, on the Pennsylvania line. The weather service said some places around the state could receive as much as 3 feet.

However, the brunt of the storm bypassed towns near the east end of Lake Ontario that had been buried by 10 feet and more of lake-effect snow over the past week.

More than a foot of snow had fallen in parts of Indiana and stiff wind piled it into 6-foot-high drifts. Springfield, Ill., measured 16 inches.

Snowfall tapered off Wednesday in Illinois but many counties had closed some or all rural roads until the snow stopped drifting. Some Ohio counties closed roads to all but emergency workers Wednesday and warned that anyone else on the roads could be arrested.

“We have a lot of trucks parked pretty much everywhere, clogging up the whole parking lot,” said sales clerk Nathan Robinson at the Auburn Travel Center truck stop about 10 miles south of Springfield, Ill., off Interstate 55.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Albany, Boston, New York City, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia and Indianapolis.

Amtrak reported up to one-hour delays between Boston and Washington because of signal problems, and regional commuter railroads also had delays.

The Washington area’s Metrobuses were mostly limited to snow emergency routes, and about 60 buses got stuck, the transit agency said. “The buses are at the mercy of the snowplows,” said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

School closings across Pennsylvania were estimated at more than 2,000, including all schools in Philadelphia. Thousands of Pennsylvania state workers were given the day off. The University of Illinois in Champaign canceled classes Tuesday and Wednesday, shuttering the school for the first time since 1979.

At least 108,000 customers were without power across Ohio, mostly because of ice snapping power lines. More than 14,000 customers were blacked out in northern Kentucky.

Maryland’s four biggest utilities reported about 120,000 customers without power statewide, 17,000 customers were blacked out in New Jersey and more than 4,000 Duke Energy customers remained without power in Indiana.

The Northeast wasn’t alone. Another storm dumped up to 10 inches of snow on parts of New Mexico on Wednesday, closing schools and causing traffic accidents in the Albuquerque area.

The huge weather system’s snow and ice had been blamed for three deaths in Nebraska, two in Indiana and Delaware, and one each in Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio, and a tornado on the southern side of the huge weather system killed one person in Louisiana.

Associated Press reporters Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.; Nahal Toosi in New York; Steve Feica in Hartford, Conn.; Charles Wilson in Indianapolis; Wilson Ring in Middlesex, Vt.; Rachel Hoag and Carrie Spencer Ghose in Columbus, Ohio; Joe Milicia in Akron, Ohio; Tom Sheeran in Cleveland, and Ramesh Santanam and Daniel Lovering in Pittsburgh.

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