A “catastrophic” winter storm is unleashing a second wave of heavy snowfall on the US Northeast, as hundreds of thousands of people remain without power in the states in its southern wake.
About 550,000 homes and businesses are still in the dark and almost 1,000 Friday flights are cancelled.
The ice storm has been blamed for at least 22 deaths, including that of a pregnant woman struck by a snowplough.
It is the latest miserable weather to pummel the winter-weary eastern US.
Early this month, Washington DC, Detroit, Boston, Chicago, New York and St Louis had recorded two to three times as much snow as normal by this time in the winter season.
This storm system has already dumped as much as 15in of snow in the Washington DC region and 8in around New York City by Thursday.
Up to another foot is forecast in a second snowfall that began on Thursday evening and is expected to continue through Friday morning, with the heaviest precipitation in the US states of Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The National Weather Service predicted the weather would ease by the weekend.
“Heavy snow will continue tonight… but will begin to taper off from south to north through the morning hours on Friday,” the official forecaster said.
The snow-covered streets in the nation’s capital were largely deserted on Thursday, after the federal government closed its Washington-area offices to spare its widely dispersed workforce the trouble and danger of the drive to work.
A second wave of heavy snowfall hits the US Northeast
On Friday, official Washington will start work two hours behind the ordinary schedule, the Office of Personnel Management said.
More than 6,500 US flights were cancelled on Thursday, according to airline-tracking website FlightAware.com. Another 1,000 on Friday’s schedule have already been grounded.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticized for keeping schools open on Thursday despite the snow piling on the ground.
The head of the city schools teachers union said it was a “mistake” to have students, parents and school staff travelling under such conditions, while a prominent meteorologist and television personality opened a public spat on Twitter with the mayor.
“It’s going to take some kid or kids getting hurt before this goofball policy gets changed,” Al Roker of NBC wrote on Twitter from Sochi, Russia, where he is covering the Winter Olympics. Al Roker has a daughter in the city schools.
Bill de Blasio responded that many parents depended on schools to watch over their children while they work – and noted the city had closed schools only 11 times for snow since 1978.
“We were convinced that kids could get to schools this morning,” he said.
The multi-day storm has been blamed for almost two dozen deaths.
In New York City on Thursday, a pregnant woman was killed after being struck by a snowplough. Her baby was delivered in critical condition via caesarean section.
The storm moved into the north-east on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, leaving in its southern wake a wreckage of snapped tree branches and power lines coated in as much as an inch of ice.
Most of the remaining power cuts are in South Carolina and Georgia, where President Barack Obama declared a disaster, opening the way for federal aid.
Forecasters said it was one of the worst storms to strike Atlanta, the largest city in the South, since 1973.
France and Italy are on flood alert as heavy rain brings chaos to parts of Europe.
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes in the Italian city of Pisa as the Arno River threatened to burst its banks on Friday.
High seas are expected to cause widespread flooding along France’s Atlantic coast.
Meanwhile, deep snow drifts left dozens of people stranded in Serbia.
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes in the Italian city of Pisa as the Arno River threatened to burst its banks
Local officials declared a state of emergency and deployed rescue teams to help travelers trapped in their vehicles. Snow storms and strong winds have been sweeping across Eastern Europe.
Italian media said a stretch of medieval wall measuring about 95ft in the town of Volterra, in the province of Pisa, collapsed as a result of heavy rain.
The French department of Finistere, in the west of the country, was placed on red alert as forecasters warned of huge waves and extensive flooding. Ten other French departments were also on alert for rising water levels.
At least two people died and scores had to be airlifted to safety after floods hit south-eastern France earlier this month.
Severe storms have been battering Europe for much of January.
A storm will hit the South during Saturday night and much of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England on Sunday bringing a dose of drenching rain, minor flooding and travel delays.
Those taking to the roadways should expect poor visibility from the driving rain and be wary of water collecting on portions of the highway that drain poorly.
The rain will be heavy enough to cause flash, urban and small stream flooding. However, fast movement of the storm system will prevent widespread and major flooding of larger streams and rivers. A general 1 to 2 inches, with locally 3 inches of rain is forecast and should be handled with few problems on the major rivers.
Downpours, fog and low cloud ceilings can lead to flight delays.
The storm was already spreading rain across the Gulf Coast on Saturday morning. It was a wet drive along the I-10 corridor from much of Louisiana to Mississippi and Alabama.
Atlanta can expect rain on Saturday afternoon through Saturday night, but improving travel conditions on Sunday.
The storm will hit the South during Saturday night and much of the mid-Atlantic and southern New England on Sunday
Farther northeast along the I-85 corridor, rain will soak the Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., areas on Saturday night into Sunday morning. Expect a miserable drive Saturday night along I-77 with rain, but also fog over the high ground.
The rain will reach Richmond and Roanoke, Virginia, late on Saturday night.
In the I-95 swath from Jacksonville, Florida to Savannah, Georgia, along the coasts of South and North Carolina, to southeastern Virginia, thunderstorms will also affect some locations with strong, gusty winds and blinding downpours
A couple of the strongest storms can produce a short-lived tornado.
On Sunday, rain and thunderstorms will push southeastward across the Florida Peninsula, while clearing sweeps from west to east across the interior South.
Farther north along I-95 from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City on Sunday, rain will spread northward. A breeze will cause the rain to be windswept at times, further reducing the visibility and adding misery to those attending NFL games.
The rain will reach across southern New England on Sunday afternoon and evening from Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, to Boston.
Businesses and services in the north-eastern US are expected to start re-opening on Wednesday after two days of closure forced by Hurricane Sandy.
Some airports, government buildings, schools and the New York Stock Exchange are due to return to business.
But many homes still have no power and the New York subway will remain shut. More than 40 people are dead.
President Barack Obama, who has suspended his election campaign, is due to visit affected areas in New Jersey.
The cost of clearing up after storm Sandy has been estimated at $30-40 billion.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “We have not seen damage like this in a generation.”
The storm is still causing severe disruption after moving inland from the coast. It is forecast to weaken as it turns north into Canada, but to continue dumping heavy snow and rainfall.
At least 22 people were killed in New York City alone.
JFK and Newark Liberty – two of the New York area’s three main airports – were scheduled to open for a limited service on Wednesday, but severe delays were expected after the cancellation of more than 18,000 flights across the affected area.
The New York Stock Exchange says it will also re-open after two days’ closure, as will the Nasdaq exchange. The last time the stock exchange shut down for two days was in 1888.
Businesses and services in the north-eastern US are expected to start re-opening on Wednesday after two days of closure forced by Hurricane Sandy
New York’s subway system sustained the worst damage in its 108-year history, said Joseph Lhota, head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Subway tunnels were flooded and electrical equipment will have to be cleaned before the network can re-open.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was “no timeline” for when the subway would restart, but he hoped buses could begin running again on Wednesday.
Trams and ferries were resuming services, but most of New York’s bridges remain closed.
Across the north-east, at least eight million homes and businesses are without power because of the storm, says the US Department of Energy.
Sandy brought a record storm surge of almost 14 ft (4.2 m) to central Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 ft during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
Maryland appeared to have the worst of the rain and snow – with falls of 12.5 in (32 cm) and 28 in respectively.
President Barack Obama was due to tour disaster areas in New Jersey on Wednesday with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Chris Christie, a Republican and staunch supporter of Mitt Romney, went out of his way to praise the Democratic president for his handling of the storm.
“I spoke to the president three times yesterday,” Chris Christie told CNN.
“He’s been incredibly supportive and helpful to our state and not once did he bring up the election… If he’s not bringing it up, I’m certainly not going to bring it up.”
Mitt Romney resumed low-key campaigning on Tuesday, converting a rally into a storm relief event in the swing state of Ohio.
In other developments:
• US federal agencies in Washington DC will re-open on Wednesday
• Fire destroyed about 50 homes in the New York City borough of Queens
• More than 200 patients were evacuated from New York University’s Tisch Hospital after power went out and a backup generator failed
• Three nuclear reactors have been closed due to electrical supply and cooling system problems; a fourth was put on alert because of rising water.
In all, storm Sandy has claimed well over 100 lives, after killing nearly 70 people as it hit the Caribbean.
Britain was hit today by the worst storm since 1996, as the swirling remnants of Hurricane Katia have crossed the Atlantic and reached the land in the morning, sweeping across large swathes of the country.
Weather forecasters warned that gusts of up to 80 mph (c 135 km/h) would batter buildings, uproot trees and cause travel chaos.
They also issued urgent weather alerts for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North East, North West and parts of the Midlands and Wales as the storm prepares to make its way eastwards.
Hurricane Katia's remnants hit Britain this morning
High speeds winds will be accompanied by heavy rain and the Environment Agency has issued several flood alerts for inland and coastal areas.
Wind speeds were increasing as the hurricane Katia remnants approached, forcing the cancellation of high speed ferries to France from Portsmouth.
According to Brittany Ferries, the company was scrapping its high speed ferries on two crossings scheduled from Portsmouth to Cherbourg today.
Safety regulations state that when waves reach a height of 10 feet (about 3 meters) or more the high speed crossings must not go ahead.
A Brittany Ferries spokesman said it hopes to have all services operating as usual by tomorrow.
Another alert – which warns that flooding is possible – has been issued along the North Sea coast in Yorkshire between Bridlington and Barmston with people being told to be aware of overtopping spray and waves at high tide.
The western coast of Anglesey has also been issued with an alert with waves of up to two metres high expected to lash certain areas, while water levels at Derwent Water, Cumbria, remain high.
According to the Met Office, the South East and South West will largely escape its wrath, but wind speeds are still expected to reach up to 50 mph in places.
Weather forecasters issued a yellow alert, warning people to be on their guard, for more than half of the country and placed several areas on amber alert – the second-highest of four levels.
British weather forecasters warned that gusts of up to 80 mph (c 135 kmh) would batter buildings, uproot trees and cause travel chaos
Other warnings said the storm could disrupt road and rail networks and damage buildings, and trees could be uprooted.
The worst conditions will be in northern and western parts of England and central and southern Scotland. The Environment Agency issued flood alerts for the North East, North West and Wales.
All coastal areas are said to be at greatest risk of flooding with strong winds to gales, large waves and a surge coinciding with high tides.
The storm will continue into tomorrow before petering out on Wednesday. Homeowners were warned to check for loose tiles and bring garden furniture indoors to help prevent flying debris.
Billy Payne, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said:
“The brunt of the the wind will go through central and southern Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales.
“Gusts are from 60-70mph in some places, possibly higher, especially in exposed places in parts of western Scotland like the islands and hilly areas.
“It will be quite windy in the south (of England) too with gusts of 40-50mph.
“There will be quite a lot of rain, perhaps heavy outbreaks over the next couple of days.
“The heavy rain will be mostly confined to the north and west of Scotland today and tomorrow. There is a risk of some flooding in north-west Scotland with the high rainfall totals.”
Ferry services and transport routes were already reporting disruption this morning.
Although the hurricane Katia has been downgraded, it still seems to create the worst storms since 1996 when Hurricane Lili brought 90 mph winds to these shores.
Met Office forecaster Tom Morgan said:
“In areas with amber warnings there will be 60-70mph gusts in many places and a chance of 80mph in a few exposed locations.”
The high speeds winds will be accompanied by scattered rain and some hail storms on the east and south coasts.
Despite the harsh conditions, parts of the South East are expected reach 21C (69F) this afternoon, but wind speeds could reach 50 mph.