A snowman stands in front of the US Capitol in Washington.
A winter storm that froze the US southeast in its tracks
has pushed north, with driving winds and heavy snow snarling
travel and closing many schools from Washington to Connecticut,
creating havoc for winter-weary parents.
Hundreds of thousands of Georgia, North and South Carolina
residents hit by a heavy blast of ice a day earlier remained
without power as the storm made its way up the coast, closing
much of Washington and threatening to drop up to 18 inches
(45 cm) of snow in some areas.
The repeated storms are taking a toll on schools and
families, as snow-related cancellations left parents
scrambling to find child-care options and administrators
looking at making up lost days by extending classes into the
New York City Public Schools, which have taken only one snow
day this year, proved a glaring exception and remained open.
Jane Mills, who was walking with her 6-year-old granddaughter
in Brooklyn, said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that public
schools were open.
"It's a danger to the students traveling in buses or cars.
It's a danger to teachers commuting," said Mills, a former
teacher from Nashville, Tennessee.
About 5,771 domestic US flights were canceled and another
1,235 were delayed on Thursday, according to flight-tracking
About 1,000 people spent the night on cots and mats at the
Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina,
the airport said. Across the state in Durham, motorists stuck
in traffic that resembled the gridlock mess in Atlanta two
weeks ago found refuge for the night at a mall.
"This is one of the toughest storms North Carolina has seen
in decades," Governor Pat McCrory told WSOC-TV.
The storm system, which has dumped heavy snow, sleet and
freezing rain from eastern Texas to the Carolinas since
Tuesday, was blamed for at least 15 deaths in the South.
DECISIONS ON SCHOOLS
The decision to keep New York City schools open drew
criticism from teachers and some parents, who said it was
unwise to expect children to travel in dangerous conditions.
"Having students, parents and staff traveling in these
conditions was unwarranted," said United Federation of
Teachers president Michael Mulgrew. "It was a mistake to open
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the decision,
saying the city was not facing the kind of overwhelming snow
that would make it impossible for kids to get to school.
"It would be very, very easy to call off school constantly,"
he said. "It is our obligation to run the school system. We
have a state mandate to reach a number of school days."
Many other districts around the region kept students home.
Francine Fencel, of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, sent her four
kids to build igloos in the yard on their sixth snow day this
year but realized the family would be losing some holiday
"We had all these long weekends scheduled in March when the
kids were supposed to be off school, but those have all been
taken back because of snow days," Fencel said. "The schools
will start adding days on to the end of the school year."
Philadelphia closed schools for its 135,000 students for the
fifth time this school year on Thursday, more than it had
planned for, so the system will have to find a way to make up
four days to meet the 180-day minimum set by law.
Schools spokesman Fernando Gallard said the days would be
made up with a mix of a shortened spring break adding days in
the current school calendar or at the end of the school year.
Flights were delayed and canceled throughout the region, with
Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, Atlanta's
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Philadelphia
International Airport the hardest hit, FlightAware said.
Pam Foster, 38, of Auburn, Maine, was waiting at a
Philadelphia Amtrak station for a train to Portland after two
of her flights were canceled.
"How bad do I want to get home? I'm willing to sit on a train
for ten hours," said Foster said, adding she wants to get
home today to see her son, who will head to Canada to see his
grandparents for next week's winter break.
At Atlanta's airport, where 70 percent of flights had been
canceled on Wednesday, spokesman Reese McCranie said even
veteran staff had never seen weather this bad.
"We've asked some folks who have been here for 20-plus years,
and they cannot recall any point where we've had as many
cancellations as we experienced yesterday," McCranie said.
"This certainly ranks pretty close to the top."
In addition to air travel disruptions, extensive bus service
cancellations were in effect in Washington, D.C., New Jersey
and Philadelphia. Government offices across the region,
including federal offices in Washington, Connecticut state
facilities and western Massachusetts, were closed.
Winter storm warnings were in effect from North Carolina to
Maine, with the National Weather Service urging caution
because of "hazardous" road conditions in the region. Eight
inches (20 cm) of snow was forecast from eastern Pennsylvania
Nearly 230,000 Georgia Power customers were without
electricity Thursday morning. About 90,000 Duke Energy Corp
customers in North Carolina were without power and South
Carolina reported more than 346,000 outages.