US northeast digs out from blizzard; two killed

New York - 

The northeastern United States began digging out Saturday in the wake of a fierce blizzard that left at least two dead, half a million customers without power, and air, road and rail links paralysed.

The storm dumped between one and two feet of snow across New England, with hurricane-strength wind gusts helping to create massive drifts. But according to the National Weather Service, the system was on its way out of the region.

New York area airports LaGuardia, John F Kennedy and Newark, which halted all flights during the height of the storm on Friday, resumed flights with delays on Saturday.

'Airlines are expected to begin limited service this morning, but all travelers should check with airlines carriers for flight status', the New York and New Jersey Port Authority earlier posted on Twitter.

First passenger jets began arriving early on Saturday, the New York Port Authority said.

However, almost 2,000 flights were cancelled Saturday across the New England region amid continuing high winds and snow clearance operations.

Boston's Logan Airport was struggling to get back into action.

'Overnight, whiteout conditions on the airfield prevented safe operations for our snow crews and their work was suspended for about five hours. The airport is currently closed to all air traffic. Crews started up again shortly before 4am', the airport said on its Facebook page.

Amtrak said its rail link between New York and Boston would remain closed, but trains were resuming normal schedules to the capital, Washington DC.

A driving ban remained in force in Massachusetts state, where about a metre of snow fell in the blizzard, burying streets in state capital Boston.

On Saturday, Connecticut state's Governor Dannel Malloy also extended a partial driving ban to all roads until further notice.

"It's critical right now that residents stay off the roads, so that our plows can continue their efforts to clear our streets and highways. This is a record setting storm. It's going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process. Unless you face an emergency, please stay put," Malloy said.

But in New York City, where just under a metre of snow accumulated in Central Park, most roads were cleared by morning.

"Looks like we dodged a bullet," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

With wind and heavy snow snapping power lines, more than half a million customers lost electricity, including 389,000 in Massachusetts, 177,000 in Rhode Island, and 35,000 in Connecticut.

Utility companies in Connecticut said they were planning for up to 30 per cent of their customers, or more than 400,000 homes, to eventually lose power.

The severity of the impact was lessened by the storm's timing at the start of a weekend in the US, but even the almost deserted roads across the region were highly dangerous.

A car driven by a young woman went out of control in the snow on a highway in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York state, striking and killing a 74 year old man, who was walking on the shoulder of the road.

And in Auburn, New Hampshire, a man was killed after losing control of his car and hitting a tree, local officials said.

Minor injuries were reported in a 19 car pileup on Interstate 295 in Falmouth, Maine state, caused by poor visibility and slippery road conditions.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said the low pressure system, now centered just out at sea off Cape Cod, near Massachusetts, would 'reach its peak intensity this morning [Saturday] before pulling slowly away from the New England coast'.

'Wind gusts of up to hurricane force are possible early today, especially near the coast, before they slowly subside through the rest of the day. Travel conditions will continue to be extremely hazardous, if not impossible', the NWS said.

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