Saturday, February 06, 2010

US East & West Coasts Battle the Elements

Washington shuts down, buried in record snowfall

Alexandria, VA

Flights are grounded and power outages are widespread as the capital slumbers under more than 32 inches of snow.

A prolonged blizzard covered Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states in a smothering canvas of snow Saturday, grounding planes and triggering widespread power outages as people across the region turned to skis and sleds to traverse icy roads.

The storm proved a major disruption, with above-ground subways and buses in the Washington area shutting down and stores closing en masse in the face of a storm destined to go down as one of the major snowfalls in the area's history.

As of late afternoon, a total of 32.4 inches was recorded at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, according to the National Weather Service. That two-day accumulation topped the previous record, compiled during the blizzard of January 1996, the weather service said.

Hundreds of thousands of homes in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere lost power. Trees toppled under the snow's weight, blocking roads. Snowplows worked overtime to keep the streets cleared. Flights were canceled at Washington's major airports.

Not even the presidential motorcade was able to navigate the city's streets unscathed. An ambulance hit an SUV in the motorcade before President Obama's entourage left the White House on Saturday morning to address the Democratic National Committee at a hotel several blocks away. No one was hurt.

At the event, Obama asked after the whereabouts of Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose). "He's on his way," Obama said. "He's still shoveling."

While the president normally portrays himself as a hardy Chicagoan accustomed to bad weather, even he seemed impressed by the storm's ferocity. He called the blizzard "Snowmaggedon."

California Flash Floods, Mudslides Cause 500-Home Evacuation

Los Angeles, CA

More than 500 homes were ordered evacuated Saturday after torrential rains led to mudslides that clogged roads and filled living rooms of homes nestled on hillsides already charred by last year's wildfires.

More than an inch of rain was expected in Los Angeles and Ventura counties by sundown Saturday, causing eroded hillsides to slough off soil that slammed into homes, rendering at least 12 of them uninhabitable, according to Los Angeles County officials. Debris basins designed to snare mud, rocks and trees had already been filled from two inches of rain that fell in previous hours.

At one home in Pickens Canyon, crews trying to find a gas leak dug through at least four feet of mud. In nearby homes, mud flowed through their interiors, muscling garage doors outward.

Several highways were closed by the flooding and mudflows.

Protective concrete barriers placed to reroute the water and mud failed, slamming into at least 25 vehicles.

A flash flood watch issued by the National Weather Service expired at 7:45 p.m. Eastern time.

Even so, more weather was on the way. The weather service predicted between 5 and 10 inches of snow would fall Saturday night in the mountains. Above 7,000 feet, accumulations of 8 to 14 inches were forecast.

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