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US officials expect widespread disruption after major snowstorm hits east coast

The winter storm leaves millions facing more than 30cm of snow a week before Christmas.

A worker cleans snow on Times Square in New York
A worker cleans snow on Times Square in New York
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A MAJOR SNOWSTORM has hit the US east coast overnight, creating extra challenges as a mass Covid-19 vaccination rollout begins across the region.

The winter storm, moving over New York, Pennsylvania and other northeastern states, leaves millions facing more than 30cm of snow a week before Christmas, potentially disrupting coronavirus testing and delaying Christmas deliveries.

It also left more than 60 million people under bad weather warnings from the northern state of Maine to South Carolina in the south.

New York City, if hit as badly by the storm as predicted, would be facing the most snow from one storm in more than four years, after it was hit with over half a metre in January 2016.

Officials in New York state and Pennsylvania said they were prepared to deal with the bad weather to ensure that vaccine delivery schedules went ahead as planned.

Delivery companies FedEx and UPS said they had also put measures in place to mitigate the storm’s effects.

Snowfall rates in both states were two inches per hour, with more than 30cm in total, according to the US National Weather Service (NWS).

It said snow could reach up to two feet in some parts of the states, which both dispatched plows to keep the roads clear.

Boston, the most populous city in Massachusetts, imposed an emergency and issued a parking ban on key roads for workers.

“Confidence is high that this major winter storm will result in significant impacts including travel disruptions and power outages across much of the northern Mid-Atlantic, southern New York and southern into central New England,” the NSW said in a tweet last night.

Despite the potential disruption, people rushed to play in New York City’s famous Times Square – some dressed as characters such as Elmo and Batman and others having snowball fights – as it became blanketed in snow.

While the snow brought joy for some, restaurants stacked chairs and tables and shuttered after a snow alert effectively put an end to outdoor dining, the last hope of custom for some business owners because of social distancing rules.

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In Pennsylvania, the transport department told drivers to limit journeys and introduced new speed restrictions to prevent accidents.

Hundreds of schools announced they would close and again retreat to online learning, bolstered by the experience of the pandemic.

Airlines also cancelled hundreds of flights on Wednesday, preventing many – some returning home for Christmas – from travelling.

© AFP 2020

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