February 11, 2010 / 2:15 AM / 10 years ago

Northeast starts snow clean-up; costs mount

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Northeast began to dig out after two blizzards in a week brought the region to a standstill with record snowfalls, creating a multimillion-dollar mess for cash-strapped cities and states.

Residents on Capitol Hill in Washington begin to dig out their cars on an unplowed street following the recent snow storms, February 11, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

From Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, cities began to clean up and airports tried to reopen runways for flights possibly later on Thursday but residents were advised to stay home while crews tried to clear streets.

Airlines, already facing economic troubles, were trying to resume their schedules, but airport officials said that it would likely take until Friday to get back to normal, with hundreds of flights on Thursday already canceled.

Washington Dulles International Airport was open but the airfield at Reagan National Airport was closed. The two main runways were open at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, while airports in Philadelphia and the New York City area were open.

The federal government in Washington said agencies in the U.S. capital region would remain closed for a fourth straight day on Thursday, a decision that costs an estimated $100 million in lost productivity each day.

HOPE FOR FEDERAL HELP

District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty said he was seeking federal financial aid to cope with the storm aftermath. Many city and state budgets have been stretched by a sagging U.S. economy combined with three big snowstorms since December.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke with some state and local officials on Wednesday, pledging help as they try to dig out.

“She assured me they would move our request expeditiously,” Fenty said on the local NBC station. Another storm is predicted for Monday in Washington, which will likely cause additional groans from budget officials — and those weary of winter.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the blizzard cost taxpayers $1 million for each inch that fell. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said he was hoping for a federal disaster declaration to help ease the financial burden.

With the 10 inches to 20 inches that fell this week across a large patch of the East Coast, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington have received more snow this winter than any time since record-keeping began.

New York City public schools reopened after being closed on Wednesday for just the third time in eight years. But schools were closed in the Washington metropolitan area and some canceled classes until after a federal holiday on Monday.

Emergency crews were working to restore power to tens of thousands of customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where strong winds downed lines. Other concerns include heavy snow buckling roofs and ice falling from buildings as it melts.

While the U.S. House of Representatives canceled votes for the week, there were a few events scheduled in the U.S. Senate, including a plan by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman to introduce legislation for sanctions on Iran.

Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; New York bureau; Jon Hurdle in Philadelphia; Editing by Eric Walsh

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