Yet another storm paralyzed the Northeast with heavy snow and sleet on Thursday, while hundreds of thousands across the ice-encrusted South waited in the cold for the electricity to come back on.
At least 21 deaths were blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of a pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot as she loaded groceries into her car.
The sloppy mix of snow and face-stinging sleet grounded more than 6,500 flights and closed schools and businesses as it made its way up the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor, where shoveling out has become a weekly – sometimes twice-weekly – chore.
About 1.2 million homes and businesses lost power as the storm moved from the South through the Northeast. By Thursday evening, about 5,50,000 customers remained in the dark, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
In some places, the snow and freezing rain eased up during the day, but a second wave was expected overnight into Friday.
Washington, DC, residents received 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow, New York City received nearly 10 inches (25 centimeters), and parts of New Jersey had more than 11 inches (28 centimeters).
In New York, Min Lin died after she was struck by a utility vehicle with a snowplow attached to it as it backed up outside a shopping center in Brooklyn. Her nearly full-term baby was delivered in critical condition via cesarean section.
No charges were brought against the snowplow operator in what appears to have been an accident, police said.
Across the South, the storm left in its wake a world of ice-encrusted trees and driveways and snapped branches and power lines.
In North Carolina, where the storm caused huge traffic jams in the Raleigh area on Wednesday as people left work and rushed to get home in the middle of the day, National Guardsmen patrolled the snowy roads, looking for any stranded motorists.
Some roads around Raleigh remained clogged with abandoned vehicles Thursday morning. City crews worked to tow them to safe areas where their owners could recover them.
Around the country, this is shaping up as one of the snowiest winters on record. As of early this month, Washington, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, New York and St. Louis had gotten roughly two or three times as much snow as they normally receive at this point in the season.
The procession of storms and cold blasts – blamed in part on a kink in the jet stream, the high-altitude air currents that dictate weather – has cut into retail sales across the US, the Department of Commerce said. Sales dipped 0.4 percent in January.