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Snow Deals New Whammy to Beleaguered East Coast

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The East, still struggling after five days to recover from the decade’s mightiest blizzard, got zapped once again Friday as a new storm brought more snow and freezing rain from the South to New England.

Although the storm lacked the power of last weekend’s blizzard, which dumped more than 2 feet of snow in some areas, the new one brought an additional 6 inches of snow combined with sleet that quickly turned to ice--a dangerous mix, particularly for drivers.

“It’s like Mother Nature kicking us when we’re down,” said Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell.

Following on the heels of the earlier storm, the new one caused considerable damage to property and some injuries. About 10 people were hurt in North Massapequa, Long Island, N.Y., when the roof of a supermarket collapsed Friday, probably because of heavy accumulations of snow and ice, police said.

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The federal government, which was closed the first three days this week because of the earlier storm, was shut Friday after having reopened Thursday for the first full day of business in nearly a month. Only the Supreme Court, which has refused to join the weather shutdowns, stayed open.

Schools remained closed in many places and in New York, school spring breaks will be shortened to make up for lost class time.

President Clinton granted disaster status to New York, Maryland, Delaware and the nation’s capital because of the heavy snowfall.

New Yorkers girded for a possible new blast of snow Monday, but farther south the forecasts were milder, with temperatures for Washington to reach the high 30s over the weekend and possibly the 40s by early next week.

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By Friday, many people, at first enchanted with being snowbound, were beginning to grow edgy.

“I thought it would be like living in a little Christmas card up here,” said Helene Kirschbaum, a bookstore owner who moved to Concord, N.H., a year ago from New York. “Instead it’s like a white hell.”

“It’s one thing to choose to stay home. But after a while you start to feel trapped,” said Jerilyn Ross, a Washington psychotherapist. “When people feel like they’re stuck and have no control over getting out, it can be very unsettling.”

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Reports popped up throughout the East of flaring tempers and fights in grocery stores and on commuter trains and buses. To Ross, that was the emergence “of our primitive instinct. Just like the cavemen. You have to provide for yourself and your family. When that is threatened, you take extreme measures.”

In New York City, where the snow total has reached 37.2 inches this winter--the annual average is 28.3 inches--many streets and highways were flooded Friday as storm drains and sewers remained blocked by the earlier storm.

In some places, including New York and Washington, garbage continued to pile up outside buildings and homes, as many pickups were suspended while sanitation crews worked to plow streets. When garbage collection proceeded as scheduled, trucks often could not reach homes because streets remained blocked by snow.

Wind gusts blew huge chunks of ice from atop office buildings in Manhattan, threatening passersby on streets below, and hospitals reported increasing numbers of cases of people with carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Most of the poisoning occurred when people, weary of shoveling snow from around their vehicles, got into them for warmth, unaware that their exhaust tailpipes still were covered with snow. With engines running and the exhaust pipes clogged, emissions backed up into the vehicles, a potentially deadly situation.

Police reported that one 40-year-old woman was killed by carbon monoxide as she sat in her car in lower Manhattan.

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Elsewhere, there were no injuries reported when ceilings collapsed in a nursing home dining room in Clinton, Md., a printing company in Bethesda, Md., a book and music store in Newark, Del., and a paper stock company in Pawtucket, R.I.

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Winds on the North Carolina coast destroyed three homes and damaged at least a dozen others on Emerald Isle. No one was hurt because the houses were unoccupied.

At least 100 people have died from storm-related conditions this week.

Two city buses crashed head-on Friday morning in icy conditions near downtown Pittsburgh, Pa., killing one of the drivers and injuring at least 50 people, 16 of them critically, authorities said.

Flights were delayed, and Washington area airports were temporarily closed. At Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia, a plane skidded on a slick runway. No one was injured.

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But the effects were not all bad.

Crime was down throughout the Northeast, law enforcement officials said.

In the Washington area, no banks have been robbed since Sunday and burglaries have decreased dramatically because so many people stayed at home, police said.

No homicides were reported in New York between Sunday and Wednesday night. The city averages more than three daily. With the government closed again, the nation’s capital was spared a replay of Thursday’s commuting nightmare, when drivers shook fists at snowplow operators for failing to clear streets sooner and passengers overwhelmed subway trains, leading to testy exchanges and shoving matches.

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Times staff writers David Willman in Washington and John J. Goldman in New York contributed to this story.


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