50,000 still powerless as blizzard-hit US digs out

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New York, Feb 10 (IANS) Over 450,000 homes and businesses shivered without power in northeastern America as workers began the massive task of digging out cities and towns left buried under mounds of snow by a monster blizzard.

As the fury of the overnight storm abated Saturday morning and workers from New York to Boston struggled to get airports, trains and highways back online, the snowstorm was blamed for at least nine deaths in three states and Canada.

The storm that began Friday forced the cancellation of more than 5,000 flights, and knocked out power to more than 650,000 customers. That figure had fallen to around 459,000 Saturday night, according to CNN.

Forecasters say the storm was still swirling across eastern New England with gusts up to 40 mph in cities that include Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston.

But as most of the heavy snow tapered off, a travel ban across Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts was lifted at 4 p.m. Saturday. Blizzard warnings were lifted, along with coastal flood warnings for New England.

Mandatory evacuations were issued earlier Saturday for Massachusetts coastal regions near the town of Hull because of flooding concerns, and high winds whipped throughout the area. Authorities advised residents to leave shoreline areas in Marshfield and Scituate.

In Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick said the emphasis of the snow storm response is gradually shifting from snow removal to restoring power to more than 405,000 homes and businesses still in the dark across a widespread region, Boston Herald reported.

As much as 31 inches fell in some regions with Jamaica Plain in Boston getting 25.5 inches and Logan International Airport just under 22 inches. The all-time record for the city is 27.3 inches, set in 2003.

In the face of the massive blizzard, a team of first responders delivered a baby girl at 3 a.m., the Herald said citing National Guard officials. The six-pound, 13 ounce, baby girl was born at the worst of the storm at her home on Vernon Hill in Worcester.

Across the state, officials were reporting high-popping powder totals. Spencer topped the state with 31 inches followed by Framingham with 30.5 inches and Northboro with 29.5 inches, according to the weather service.

Hundreds of cars were stranded on the Long Island Expressway in New York after motorists got stuck driving in the snow. They outnumbered the tow trucks and crews deployed to the area for the storm, according to Suffolk County police.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expressed relief at a Saturday morning news conference that the city had avoided worse damage and offered to assist the more heavily pounded neighbouring states and Long Island, the hardest-hit part of New York State, the New York Times reported.

Some streets in Connecticut resembled ski slopes or mountain passes. People could not open their doors, the Times said.

With snow still falling, the Weather Service said it had reports out of New Haven County of 36.2 inches in Oxford and 38 inches in Milford.

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