US east coast braced for deep freeze following massive storm

US east coast braced for deep freeze following massive storm
A vehicle parked on Abbott Avenue is surrounded by snowdrifts during a snowstorm that hit the New Jersey Shore.

Residents on the east coast of the US are bracing themselves for a deep freeze a day after a massive winter storm battered the region with heavy snow, hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding.

Forecasters predict that record-breaking cold air and strong winds will set people's teeth chattering from the mid-Atlantic to New England on Friday and that the freezing weather will hang around throughout the weekend.

"This is chilly, chilly stuff," said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland.

The arctic blast could make temperatures feel as low as minus 15C (5F) from Philadelphia to Boston on Friday and make residents of states like Maryland and Virginia shiver. Coastal areas in the north-east may experience numbing single digits, Mr Hurley added.

The storm began in the Gulf of Mexico two days ago and first struck the Florida Panhandle.

By Thursday it was wreaking havoc as blizzard warnings and states of emergency went into effect along the Eastern Seaboard. Wind gusts hit more than 70mph (113kph) in places and some areas saw as much as 18in (46cm) of snow.

The storm caused schools and businesses to close, cancellations or reductions to airline and rail services, and thousands of utilities cuts, though many were quickly restored. Some ferry services even had to be shut down along the Canadian coast.

A group of men help a motorist after his vehicle was stuck in the snow near Asbury Park boardwalk during a snowstorm.
A group of men help a motorist after his vehicle was stuck in the snow near Asbury Park boardwalk during a snowstorm.

In the south, the winter weather forced portable toilets to be put in place outside Mississippi's Capitol after pipes burst and it caused iguanas to become sluggish and topple from trees in South Florida. Residents of south-east Georgia were treated to a rare 6in (15cm) of snow.

In New England, the powerful winds brought coastal flooding that reached historic levels in some communities, with icy water overflowing piers, streets and restaurants and stranding some people who had to be rescued.

At least seven people died in weather-related accidents.

Four people were killed in North Carolina and South Carolina after their vehicles ran off snow-covered roads, authorities said.

Another fatality was reported near Philadelphia when a car was unable to stop at the bottom of a steep, snow-covered hill and slammed into a commuter train. A passenger in the vehicle was killed. No-one on the train was hurt.

In Virginia, a girl was struck by a pick-up truck while sledging and a 75-year-old man was hit by a snowplough while clearing business car parks, authorities said. Both died in hospital from their injuries, police said.

Some of the most painfully cold weather is still to come, Mr Hurley said.

In northern New England, temperatures will be below zero this weekend. The high in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday may only be minus 5C (23F), he said.

With the wind chill, it could feel as cold as minus 30C (minus 22F) in those areas, a dangerous level that could potentially lead to frostbite exposure, warned Carl Erickson, an AccuWeather meteorologist based in State College, Pennsylvania.

Sunday morning should bring the coldest temperatures from Portland, Maine, to Washington, DC.

"That's when you'll see records being challenged or broken, with temperatures at or near zero in many places," said Mr Hurley.

More seasonable weather is expected to return early next week, he added, with temperatures for some feeling downright balmy.

AP

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