The snowbound Washington area was resuming partial business yesterday as trains and buses restarted near-normal service, while federal offices remained closed following a massive blizzard that hammered the US east coast.
District of Columbia city government and most local governments in the Washington and Baltimore region are set to reopen after round-the-clock cleanup from the weekend snowstorm that killed at least 35 people in 10 states and the US capital.
New York was largely back to normal on Monday despite near-record snowfall, with public schools and the New York Stock Exchange open.
But Washington and its sprawling Maryland and Virginia suburbs were mostly at a standstill from the blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet in the area.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers stayed at home on Monday as the subway system, the second-busiest in the United States, and roads were cleared.
Federal offices were likely to remain closed, but emergency and telework employees should adhere to their agencies’ policies, the US office of personnel management said late on Monday. Federal offices closed at noon on Friday ahead of the storm.
District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters that public schools would stay closed until today but city offices would open as normal.
Many school districts in the Baltimore area, which received a record 29.2 inches of snow, and in the Washington region were set to be closed, according to local media websites.
Washington metropolitan area transit authority general manager Paul Wiedefeld told reporters that all rail services except the Silver Line in Virginia would run on a modified weekday schedule.
Bus services would expand to a “severe snow” schedule, he said. The transit system had shut down on Friday ahead of the storm and resumed limited service on Sunday with free travel.
The Federal Aviation Administration said airlines were expected to increase traffic slowly in Boston, the New York area, Philadelphia and the Washington region.
About 500 US flights were cancelled yesterday, less than a third of the number called off on Monday, according to Flightaware.com, an air travel website.
The house of representatives has called off all votes until next week as the snow hampered lawmakers from returning from their home districts. The senate is operating on a reduced schedule.
Residents of New Jersey’s southern shorefront towns on Monday cleaned up homes and businesses flooded by a storm surge during the weekend’s massive blizzard and rued what they described as Governor Chris Christie’s dismissive treatment of the damage.
The storm that walloped Washington and New York hit coastal Cape May County in New Jersey with tides higher than those measured during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, sending salt water into properties and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.
Jim Hand voiced exasperation as he surveyed the damage at Fred’s Tavern in Stone Harbor, a bar and liquor store about 56km down the coast from Atlantic City. Hand, a member of the third generation of his family to own the shop, said that the property’s kitchen, electrical wiring and floors would all need to be replaced.to
.”We’re doing the same thing today we did after Sandy,” said Hand, 61.
He was one of a handful of local business owners to criticise comments by Christie, a Republican White House contender who told CNN on Sunday that he had “no concerns” about flooding as a result of the storm.
“Keep this in perspective,” Christie told CNN during a one-day return to the state from the campaign trail in New Hampshire. “Cape May County area was the least flooded area during Hurricane Sandy and had almost no damage in that area.”
No immediate estimate of the financial toll of the flooding damage was available but reinsurance broker Aon Benfield said that total insured losses along the East Coast will run into the billions of dollars.
Hand had no patience for Christie’s words, saying, “It shows you how out of touch he is with what’s going on in his state.”
Angry comments from New Jersey residents immediately flashed across Twitter and raged into Monday, some showing images of street flooding and tagged to Christie with comments like “nothing to see here”.
Christie spokesman Brian Murray said that the governor’s words had been taken out of context.
“Cape May County and lower Atlantic County did not sustain the direct hit from Sandy suffered by more northern parts of the Jersey Shore. But the governor did not say they were not impacted by Sandy,” Murray said. “He only cautioned news reporters to use some context when pointing to Saturday’s flooding in Cape May and saying it’s ‘Worse than Sandy.’”
Sandy was directly responsible for 147 deaths in the United States, destroying more than 650,000 homes around the greater New York area and causing nearly $50bn in damage.
Christie said in a statement on Monday that he had sent teams to the storm-hit areas to determine whether the damage was severe enough to seek federal assistance, a process that he said could take days.
Children’s clothing store owner Maggie Day sprayed an anti-bacterial mix over her ruined merchandise as she surveyed the damage to her shop in Stone Harbor in Cape May County.
“I did walk away from Sandy with a lot of damage,” said Day, 39, who had to replace flooring, walls, insulation and merchandise after the 2012 storm and was working with a “water excavator” to get a handle on the latest damage.
“It’s not even help that I’m asking for,” Day said. “It’s just a little bit of compassion with a public leader on TV. You can’t pooh-pooh it publicly when you’re a leader.”
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