Nightly News   |  February 26, 2010

Record-breaking storm buries Northeast

The fourth major snowstorm to strike in a month has been yet another economic burden the region doesn't need. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> happen. "nightly news" begins now.

>>> good evening, and back east tonight, everybody is saying the same thing, this is the kind of winter it seems like we used to have. the kind of winter we now rarely see. tonight in the northeast, it's in the grips of a huge swirling, relentless storm. some incredible amounts of snowfall, traffic nightmares and life has been disrupted dangerously so for a lot of people. by one estimate, there are 1 million americans without power over a several-state area. over a thousand flights canceled. in the thick of it, hundreds of people were stranded on one stretch of new york highway overnight. central park in new york , an all-time february record getting just under 21 inches of snow. we all have it covered tonight beginning with nbc's rehema ellis.

>> reporter: good evening, brian this latest nor'easter which had near hurricane force winds resulted in record snowfalls here in new york 's central park . it's 20.9 inches. i've been here for a lot of it. it's very pretty, but tonight is causing a lot of trouble for a lot of people. it's the fourth major snowstorm in a month. one more storm the region didn't need. across the new york area, starting early in the morning , people struggled to keep up with the falling snow. in the northern regions, heavy snowfall took out power lines across the northeast, leaving more than a million without electricity.

>> we lost power 9 :00 last night. no heat, no electricity. we managed to sleep through the night. this morning woke up and there's still no power.

>> reporter: travel was treacherous. a 20-mile stretch of i-84 was at a standstill for hours, stranding hundreds of motorists in their cars, some since last night.

>> we haven't moved and inch. it's a little over 15 hours now.

>> on a day like this you never know what to expect. you have to be open for anything.

>> reporter: the major airlines were in business, but more than 1,000 flights were canceled at new york and new jersey's three major airports. in hampton, new hampshire, firefighters continued at a scene of a blaze that broke out after midnight. the fire destroyed an entire block. no one was injured. all this weather comes at a huge cost for cash-strapped towns, even cities with snowfall removal budgets in the millions.

>> we anticipated already spending about $11.5 million. now with this storm, we'll easily go over $15 million.

>> reporter: despite the pile-up of winter woes, some still made the best of it. back here in new york , more than a million new york city school kids got a head start on the weekend.

>> it's been snowing for like two weeks long.

>> reporter: for the fourth time in six years new york city public schools were closed. while the storm is winding down, people flying in and out of this region tomorrow are advised to check ahead with their airlines. there could still be many delays. brian?

>> all right, rehema ellis in central park , thanks. weather channel meteorologist mike seidel is in