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42 Killed As Ice Storms, Snow, Floods Hit US

Three young men walk down Broad Street as light snow falls 10 January, 2007 outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York. The brief snow squall was recorded as Manhattan's fisrt snow of the season. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) Jan 16, 2007
A massive winter storm has covered swaths of the United States in a mantle of snow, sleet and ice, killing 42 people, threatening millions of dollars in citrus crops and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity, officials said Tuesday. "This is a big one, affecting all the way from New Mexico to Maine," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

The worst-hit areas were Oklahoma, where freezing rain left behind a sheet of ice, and Missouri, hard hit by sleet, he said.

"With the ice, the trees come down on the power lines, and in Oklahoma it's going to take the rest of the week to get all that restored," he said. "The lines are completely down. It's not like it's a transformer here and there -- it's the whole grid."

The storm, which struck Friday, was caused by an enormous cold front that forced temperatures down by as much as 17 degrees C (30 degrees F) and brought wave after wave of freezing rain and sleet as it moved slowly eastward.

It weakened somewhat Tuesday, sparing major East Coast cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia from the worst of the ice and sleet.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and advisories in several states, from Louisiana in the south to Ohio and Illinois in the Midwest, while an ice storm warning was posted for parts of the northeastern states of New Hampshire and Maine.

The Weather Service also issued a warning early Tuesday for "frozen precipitation and ice accumulation" across Houston and other parts of southeastern Texas through Wednesday.

The storm has already caused ice storms in western parts of New York state, forecasters said.

In hard-hit Oklahoma, Federal Emergency Management Agency workers distributed electrical generators and bottled water to communities hammered by the ice storm, after President George W. Bush declared an emergency in Oklahoma on Sunday.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported more than 300 road accidents in which 14 people were killed, including seven in a minivan crash Sunday.

Some 103,000 people were also without power, according to Oklahoma's Department of Emergency Management.

Bush also declared a state of emergency for Missouri -- including the city of St. Louis -- on Monday, freeing up federal funding for recovery efforts.

State officials said eight people had been killed in the Missouri storms, including seven who died in traffic accidents and one killed by carbon monoxide poisoning -- common when people without electricity use fuel-burning stoves for heat.

More than 300,000 people lost power in the state due to downed power lines, and a utility worker was injured, state officials said.

In Kansas, five people were reported killed in weather-related road accidents and one person died of carbon monoxide poisoning, officials told the Kansas City Star newspaper.

One person also died in a weather-related traffic accident in New York state, according to local radio.

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry called out the National Guard after heavy rain caused flash flooding. Local media reported two killed in separate weekend accidents on icy roads in western Texas.

And in California, where temperatures are generally mild, farmers braced for devastation to citrus crops worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier, California's secretary of food and agriculture, A.G. Kawamura, was quoted as saying that the damage could be greater than the 700 million dollars in losses suffered in the state's last big freeze in 1998.

But Dave Kranz, a spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation trade group, said it was too soon to tell the extent of the damage.

"The freeze in 1998 was severe, but there were pockets of fruit that survived. That's the expectation this year," he said. "There are citrus groves that will have come through OK, but there is also widespread damage."

In central Los Angeles, temperatures plunged to two degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) early Monday, a record low.

Some 51,000 homes and businesses lost power in upstate New York after a heavy layer of ice covered the area early Monday, National Grid spokesman Alberto Bianchetti said.

The company, which provides power to around 1.5 million customers in the northern part of the state, expected to begin restoring services later in the day, he said.

More snow was forecast for later Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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European Russia's Continued Warm Winter Is Unprecedented
Moscow, Russia (SPX) Jan 17, 2007
The consistently mild temperatures being registered throughout European Russia this winter are unlike anything experienced before, a top meteorologist said Tuesday. The unusually warm winter weather, more typical of fall, began in December and has continued into January, with average temperatures remaining above zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).







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