MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
A harsh Valentine's Day blizzard has hammered the northeast after dumping more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest. Nearly 300,000 homes and businesses lost power, schools are closed from Illinois to Maine, highways are in bad shape and thousands of airline flights have been cancelled. The storm is being blamed for at least 12 deaths.
NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: The National Weather Service posted winter storm watches and warnings from as far west as Iowa and Missouri yesterday all the way to the eastern seaboard today as moist air from the Gulf of Mexico met cold Canadian air over the nation's midsection.
The storm system produced unusually heavy snows. And wind gusts topping 50 miles an hour blew drifts measuring nine-feet high. In Columbus, Ohio, Jeff Sorocki worked up a sweat shoveling his neighbor's sidewalk.
Mr. JEFF SOROCKI: This is what you call heart attack snow because it weighs a hell of a lot more, you know.
SCHAPER: The ice and winds downed power lines in several states. And the blowing and drifting snow made driving very dangerous.
Sergeant BRET GACSTETTER(ph)(Ohio State Highway Patrol): The roads got pretty nasty.
SCHAPER: Sergeant Bret Gacstetter is with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Sgt. GACSTETTER: We ended up handling, the State Patrol, we handled well over 1,200 crashes since 2:00 a.m. on the 13th until this morning.
SCHAPER: Because so many roads were so treacherous, hundreds of thousands of school children got the day off today. And many businesses closed, too. John Hendraski(ph) work to plow the streets of Cleveland.
(Soundbite of plowing)
Mr. JOHN HENDRASKI: We're out here braving the gale today opening up all the torough ways so everybody can try to get to work for tomorrow. It's been pretty bad but we're catching up with it. We'll get her done.
(Soundbite of plowing)
SCHAPER: Cleveland's airport was one of a number that shutdown for a short time because crews couldn't keep runways clear of blowing snow. And across the country, thousands of flights were being cancelled even after the worst of the storm had passed.
At Chicago's O'Hare, Amy Milne waited in a long line of passengers trying to rebook her flight to Boston.
Ms. AMY MILNE: Well, we were supposed to leave yesterday. We've been cancelled twice so far. And I'm hoping to get home before tomorrow.
SCHAPER: Greg Hinggler(ph) of Dallas says he missed his connecting flight last night, but he says he did cover himself.
Mr. GREG HINGGLER: I sent the roses so I did what I was supposed to do. Sorry to be away from her.
SCHAPER: Delivery of those flowers is a problem in many parts of the Midwest and northeast. Beth Tenny(ph) owns the Annaheld(ph) Flower Shop on Chicago's northside.
Ms. BETH TENNY: You add extra drivers. You recruit friends, family, husbands, anyone with a four-wheel drive.
SCHAPER: Tenny says she and her employees started making deliveries yesterday and very early this morning on this, the busiest day of the year for flower shops. As the storm continues to move east, another blast of bitter cold air is coming into the Midwest and Great Lakes behind it.
That may make some folks cancel Valentine's Day plans out on the town, forcing them to snuggle up inside instead.
David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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