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(Updates with weather-related injuries, other details)
By Scott Malone and Victoria Cavaliere
BOSTON/NEW YORK, Jan 3 (Reuters) - People across the northeastern United States on Friday dug out after a heavy snowfall that grounded thousands of flights, closed schools and government offices, caused several deaths and left the region in the grip of bitter cold.
Boston was hard hit by the first major winter storm of 2014, getting nearly 18 inches (45 cm) of snow, while some towns north of New England's largest city saw close to 2 feet (60 cm) of accumulation.
Major cities from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Maine, were slammed, with New York's Manhattan Island getting 6 inches (15 cm) of snow and parts of Queens seeing more than 10 inches (26 cm) of fresh powder.
While plows made easy work of the powdery snow to clear roads and runways, authorities warned residents to expect unusually cold weather across the Midwest and Northeast.
Embarrass, Minnesota, notched a reading of minus 36 Fahrenheit (minus 38 Celsius) that stood as the lowest temperature recorded in the United States outside Alaska on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
"Temperatures tonight and tomorrow are expected to be extremely low, and dangerously so," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said. "These are dangerous conditions."
The forecast overnight low for Boston was minus 4F (minus 20C) while New York looked for a low of 3F (minus 16C).
New York City's Department of Homeless Services went to "code blue," doubling the number of vans patrolling streets to seek people who needed shelter and streamlining the check-in process for homeless shelters.
Washington received more than 2 inches (5 cm) of snow, Philadelphia roughly 5 inches (13 cm) and Hartford 7 inches (18 cm). (U.S. snowfall: link.reuters.com/zym75v)
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, Tom Klein took a break from shoveling and said that a life in New England had accustomed him to harsh winter weather.
"I love a good snowstorm," the 60-year-old co-owner of a small manufacturing company said. "I don't mind shoveling. I've never minded shoveling."
Some 3,467 flights were canceled on Friday across the United States and 12,394 were delayed with Philadelphia and Newark airports hardest hit, according to FlightAware.com.
Airports across the region warned travelers to expect residual delays as they cleared a backlog of flights.
"We now have all our airfields - runways and taxiways - clear," said Ed Freni, aviation director for Boston's Logan International Airport. "We will be back to normal operations by tomorrow."
The weather was a factor in several deaths.
Police recovered the body of a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease who had wandered out in the rural western New York State town of Byron on Thursday night, improperly dressed for the single-digit temperatures, according to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
A Philadelphia city worker was killed after a machine he was using was crushed by a mound of rock salt, media said.
New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, started his day shoveling the walk in front of his Brooklyn brownstone - a task his wife had said their 16-year-old son Dante would handle. Dante turned up later, not being an early riser, his father said at a briefing.
Asked what grade he would give his teenaged son, de Blasio said: "I give Dante an A for effort and a D for punctuality."
In Washington, the Office of Personnel Management told hundreds of thousands of federal workers they could work from home or take a leave because of the storm. The United Nations in New York and federal courts in New York, New Jersey, and Boston shut down. Schools closed across much of the region.
A Wayne, New Jersey, man was rescued Friday afternoon after falling through the ice at Ramapo Lake, where he was snowshoeing in an area frequented by hikers and mountain bikers, state officials said.
The Oakland Police Department dive rescue team pulled the man to safety and resuscitated 34-year-old Guncel Karadogan, who was talking and lucid as he was taken to a local hospital, where there was no immediate word on his condition.
And in Monmouth, New Jersey, fire officials said the driver of a mail truck and two people in another vehicle were rescued from flood waters in separate incidents after the Shrewsbury River flooded during high tide late Friday morning.
One victim was transported to Monmouth Medical Center. However, a spokesperson could not release any information on that victim.
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, the temperature plummeted to -18 degrees Fahrenheit (-28 C) on Friday, breaking a record for the date set in 1979, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite the frigid forecast predicted for the end of the weekend, Green Bay Packers fans bought the remaining 40,000 tickets this week for their team's National Football League playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
The NFL threatened to prohibit local TV from airing the game if the team was unable to sell out the game in Lambeau Field, where diehard fans will brave the temperatures expected reach 0F (minus 18C) during the game. (Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Daniel Lovering in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Jeffrey B. Roth in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Dave Warner in Philadelphia; Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; David Bailey in Minneapolis; Ian Simpson in Washington; David Jones in Newark, New Jersey; Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)