News World US snowstorm claims more lives

US snowstorm claims more lives

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Another snow storm has paralysed the US northeast with heavy snow and sleet, while hundreds of thousands across the ice-encrusted south wait 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-snowplough 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 shovelling 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 550,000 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 23cm of snow, New York City received nearly 25cm and parts of New Jersey had more than 28cm.

In New York, Min Lin died after she was struck by a utility vehicle with a snowplough attached to it as it backed up outside a shopping centre in Brooklyn. Her nearly full-term baby was delivered in critical condition via caesarean section.

Across the South, the storm left in its wake a world of ice-encrusted trees and driveways, snapped branches and power lines.

Around the country, it’s 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 per cent in January.