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Nation's capital faces days of cleanup after massive snowfall

A snow plow clears a sidewalk in front of the White House in Washington January 25, 2016. The Washington area is digging out from the weekend blizzard. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK - Officials in Washington, D.C., warned residents on Monday that it would take several more days for the city to return to normal after a massive weekend blizzard dropped more than two feet (60 cm) of snow along the East Coast and left 31 people dead.

The nation's capital was at a standstill, with federal government offices ordered shut on Monday, schools in the district and surrounding suburbs shuttered and the U.S. House of Representatives cancelling all votes until next week.

Washington's mayor, Muriel Bowser, urged residents to stay off the streets while crews cleared snow from secondary roadways, parking lanes and highway shoulders.

"We are now 36 hours into the big digout," she told reporters, adding that it will take "several days" to finish the cleanup. "We're making a lot of progress."

Officials reported at least 31 storm-related deaths, including traffic accidents and heart attacks while shoveling in Washington, D.C., Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia


Washington's subway resumed limited service on Monday, offering free travel in an effort to encourage the use of mass transit over driving.

"It's beautiful to watch but impossible to get through," said John Salmons, a 24-year-old designer who works at an architecture firm, as he waited for a train in suburban Arlington, Virginia.

Even with federal government offices officially closed, the Supreme Court was open for business, scheduled to issue rulings and act on pending appeals from the snowbound courthouse across from the U.S. Capitol building.

Maryland's state government was also shut on Monday and officials asked residents to avoid traveling.

High snowbanks at street corners made travel within Washington difficult for pedestrians.

"The hardest part was getting the stroller through the unclean sidewalks," said Isam Qahwash, a 41-year-old scientist from Princeton, New Jersey, as he carried his 14-month-old son in a stroller across a downtown street.

"It seems like they move really slow cleaning the snow here in D.C.," said Qahwash, originally from Michigan.




New York was quicker to return to business, with the New York Stock Exchange and the city's public schools opened as usual.

The state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, said weekend road closures throughout New York City and its eastern suburbs had saved lives by keeping people off the streets, reduced traffic accidents and allowed work crews to plow more efficiently.

"New Yorkers don't like to be inconvenienced," Cuomo said on CNN. "If the forecast doesn't turn out as much snow, then they are hanging me in effigy today."

Air travel remained seriously affected as some 1,435 U.S. flights were canceled on Monday, with Newark Liberty International Airport, New York's LaGuardia Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport the hardest hit, according to FlightAware.com.

The blizzard was the second biggest snowstorm in New York City history, with 26.8 inches (68 cm) measured in Central Park by midnight on Saturday, shy of the record 26.9 inches (68.3 cm) set in 2006, the National Weather Service said.

The NWS said 22.4 inches (57 cm) fell in Washington at the National Zoo, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport notched a record 29.2 inches (74.2 cm). The deepest regional total was 42 inches (106.7 cm) at Glengarry, West Virginia.

In Times Square, a taxicab-yellow John Deere tractor and crews wearing red jumpsuits cleared snow from pedestrian plazas, in hopes that tourists would return as the temperatures rise above freezing.


"It's beautiful and terrible," said Maria Murillo, visiting New York from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her husband Jorge, and seeing snow for the first time.

"This is the terrible part," said Jorge, his canvas sneakers soaked as the couple struggled to cross street corners where melting snow formed puddles more like small ponds.


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