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Snow? No sweat, says East Coast

Memo to: Los Angeles

From: The East Coast

Re: All that snow

Yes, the headlines looked bad. “Snowstorm Slams East.” “Snow Causes More Chaos.”

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And yes, it did. For a weekend.

But by Monday, snow country had bounced back, as it tends to do. Folks dumped salt on their steps, scraped off their windshields, laughed as kids pelted each other with snowballs. Many workers, their offices closed, rejoiced in a lazy snow day.

In Manhattan, where plows had cleared the streets, Ellen Lopez, 49, shopped through her lunch break to make up for a snowed-in Sunday. Although her commuter train from a Long Island suburb was 20 minutes late Monday morning, she’d always loved arriving in the city after a big storm.

“Everybody is out all bundled up on the streets getting on with their lives,” she said. “You just walk out of your apartment, and within a day all that’s left is a lot of black slush.”

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Perhaps this is something Los Angeles, where the high temperature Monday -- the first day of winter -- hovered around 68, can’t quite comprehend.

Let us explain.

The storm was, no doubt, fierce. Snow, wind, ice and rain -- pretty much everything in nature’s winter arsenal -- pounded Eastern states from the Carolinas to New England.

There was flooding, widespread power outages, Amtrak cancellations and at least seven deaths, the Associated Press reported. Some cities were buffeted with record snowfall: 16 inches outside Washington; 23.2 in Philadelphia.

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Travelers were marooned and holiday plans snarled. As the storm moved through the South on Friday night, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which claims to be the world’s busiest, suffered 535 weather-related delays.

On Monday, airports and carriers played catch-up, with Delta, United and American planning to add flights. At Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, planes took off an average of 80 minutes late, on account of punishing winds.

“These things happen in the wintertime,” said Michael Conway, spokesman for the Detroit Metro Airport Authority. There, airlines rushed to de-ice planes and re-book stranded, weary travelers.

(But at LAX: All clear.)

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Other vestiges of the storm remained. At a Starbucks in Olney, Md., a sign near an empty display case explained: “The only food available is what you see here. Problems with deliveries.”

For the most part, though, snow country shrugged at the blast of winter. Here, it’s something to endure, not bemoan.

Some years, the ground is dusted from Halloween to Easter. Salt that dissolves ice also chews up pants. Cars rust quickly. “I drifted into a snow bank” is the equivalent of “I took the 405" -- a common, if irritating, reason for being late.

Hari Garwahl, 47, is a native of India who works for an airport car service in New York. He finds it remarkable how fast the city rebounds from foul weather.

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“This city doesn’t fall apart so easily,” he said. “There’s a mess, and then a ferocious effort by people to at least get on with it.”

He was on his way to John F. Kennedy International Airport to help a California couple who had been diverted to Atlanta. They eventually made it to their Midtown hotel Monday -- without their luggage. He was being paid handsomely to retrieve it.

“You know,” he said, “you just suck it up in this city, and hope to make a profit.”

But snow country will soon get another test.

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Forecasters say that starting today, another storm will sweep in, burying the Rockies in up to 2 feet of powder and, after a quick break, unleashing blizzard-like snow and wind on the Central Plains and Midwest. Rain is expected to soak the East.

“It’ll make for miserable conditions,” said Andrew Orrison, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

But for a swath of the country, it might also bring something unheard-of in L.A.: a white Christmas.

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

Contributing to this report were Times staff writers Ari B. Bloomekatz in Los Angeles, Richard Fausset in Atlanta, P.J. Huffstutter in Indiana and Richard Simon in Maryland.


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