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Northeast could see double winter whammy

/ Source: NBC News and news services

While millions of people in the nation's midsection tried to thaw out and get power restored, the Northeast was told to expect a double winter whammy starting Thursday that should blanket the region in a foot or more of snow.

The weather system that froze Midwest states was expected to arrive in the Northeast after the Thursday morning commute, according to NBC WeatherPlus meteorologist Bill Karins.

"Everyone will get to work just fine, but getting home should be ugly," he said. "A heavy burst of snow and sleet will fall from New York City to southern New England, especially between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

"South of New York City more sleet will mix in and cut down on snow totals, but still make it a slick ride home" as far south as Philadelphia, he added.

Snow totals from the first storm could be 4-6 inches in Boston, New York City and other Northeast areas. Philadelphia could see an inch, Karins said.

A second storm making its way from the Pacific Northwest, through Texas and then southern Plains states on Friday, should reach the Northeast with rain by Saturday night. Along the way it could dump 12-18 inches of snow in some areas.

By Saturday night, "heavy snow and blizzard conditions" are likely from central Pennsylvania, central New York and New England, Karins said.

Conditions Sunday were predicted to include moderate coastal flooding at high tide in New England, wind gusts up to 70 mph on the coast and heavy snow in northern New England. Snow showers are likely from Philadelphia to southern New England.

The forecast came as utility crews struggled to repair power lines snapped by the ice storm that had blacked out as much as a million homes and businesses across the nation’s midsection.

'Nasty outside'
The forecast came as utility crews struggled to repair power lines snapped by the ice storm that had blacked out as much as a million homes and businesses across the nation’s midsection.

Repair crews and homeowners still faced a mixture of snow, sleet and light rain that fell across parts of north Texas and central Oklahoma during the morning.

“It will still be cold and nasty outside and may slow efforts to restore power and remove tree limbs and such,” said Patrick Burke, a weather service meteorologist in Norman, Okla.

The new system could also bring more freezing rain to Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas, but not nearly as much as the previous storm, according to the National Weather Service.

Ice ranging from a quarter-inch to an inch thick glazed roads in much of the central Plains and Midwest. At least 27 deaths have been blamed on the storm since it developed last weekend. Most resulted from traffic accidents.

Forecasters said more snow, sleet and freezing rain could also develop across the northern Ohio Valley and from Pennsylvania into New England on Wednesday.

About a half million homes and business still had no power Wednesday in Oklahoma, which saw its worst power outage on record. That was down from a peak of some 618,000 customers Tuesday, but utility officials said it could be a week to 10 days before power is fully restored.

"We're relying on people to look after each other," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. "At the end of the day, this comes down to the strength of your people. ... People who have electricity ought to be sharing it with people who don't."

Ice, snow hits Iowa Elsewhere, around 229,000 customers were still blacked out in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Kansas’ tally had risen — to 130,000 on Wednesday, up 15,000 from Tuesday — as rural electric cooperatives reported in and falling branches brought down more power lines.

In Iowa, about 33,000 customers were without power as thick ice caused trees and branches to crash into power lines.

Ice prompted the Des Moines International Airport to close late Tuesday. It reopened just before noon Wednesday. Most of the state's largest school districts canceled classes, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Council Bluffs and Dubuque.

Lesley Owczarski, owner of Big Apple Bagels in Ottumwa, Iowa, said Tuesday the power was on at her shop, but many of her customers weren't so lucky.

"Most of the places don't have power so a lot of people have been coming to the bagel shop," she said. "If they can come in and get warm and have a hot coffee and a latte, why not? I can understand it's boring sitting at home."

Most people decided to stay home and bundle up rather than go to shelters.

"We've got kerosene lamps and a fireplace," said Charita Miller of Oklahoma City. "We're OK. We can't watch TV. Oh well, you can't have everything. It's just me and my husband. My husband said, 'There's food in the freezer.'"

'I'm not the only one'
Sonya Kendrick, who spent Monday night at one of several American Red Cross shelters set up in Oklahoma City, said a tree ripped the electrical box off the side of her house, and she needed a warm place to take her three children until repairs could be made.

"When I got in here yesterday, I was totally distraught. I was like, 'Why me? Why me of all people?' I look at it this way, too: I'm not the only one," Kendrick said Tuesday. "There's other people here that I got to know in less than two days, literally. All of them have been through the same thing, and everybody here just understands everybody."

The storm also caused extensive travel problems. More than 550 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Tuesday, and hundreds of other flights were delayed up to an hour by nighttime, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

Not everyone minded the winter weather.

Lynette Lamblez, an inventory controller from Waukesha, Wis., said her bus ride to work took 30 minutes longer Tuesday but she was grateful for the snowfall.

"Four weeks ago, it was 60 degrees out," she said. "I really think it's beautiful."

Emergencies declared
Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency. President Bush declared a federal emergency in Missouri on Wednesday, ordering government aid to supplement state and local efforts. He had done the same for Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Tulsa and Oklahoma City each had more than 100 reports of fires since the storm began, mostly from tree limbs crashing into live power lines, authorities said.

High temperatures should reach the 40s on Thursday with no additional rainfall expected, Burke said. But by late Friday, another storm could bring 2 to 4 inches of snow to areas north of Interstate 44, he said.

The 27 deaths blamed on the weather include 16 in Oklahoma, four in Kansas, three each in Missouri and Michigan and one in Nebraska.