WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest winter storm to hit the U.S. East Coast grounded more than 6,000 flights Thursday, while hundreds of thousands in the ice-encrusted South remained without power.
"Snow has become a four-letter word," said Tom McGarrigle, chairman of the Delaware County Council in suburban Philadelphia.
Washington, D.C., had at least 8 inches (203 millimeters), and federal offices and the city's two main airports were closed. New York City had at least 8 inches.
At least 18 deaths, most of them in traffic accidents, were blamed on the storm as it made its way across the South and up the coast.
Among the victims was a pregnant woman who was struck and killed by a snowplow in New York City. Her baby was delivered in critical condition via cesarean section.
In New York City, the teachers union blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to keep the schools open. Television personality Al Roker, who was in Russia for the Winter Olympics but has a daughter in New York's public schools, said on Twitter: "It's going to take some kid or kids getting hurt before this goofball policy gets changed."
The mayor said many parents depend on schools to watch over their children while they are at work.
About 750,000 homes and businesses were left without power in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama, with scattered outages reported in the mid-Atlantic.
More than 200,000 households and businesses in the Atlanta area alone were waiting for the electricity to come back on. Temperatures were expected to drop below freezing again overnight.
The recent series of storms and cold blasts — blamed in part on a kink in the jet stream, the high-altitude air currents that dictate weather — has cut into retail sales across the U.S., the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Sales dipped 0.4 percent in January.
"It's been a tough winter. It seems like it will never end," said Deb Ragan, clearing a sidewalk in Philadelphia.
The dangerous weather threatened to disrupt deliveries of Valentine's Day flowers.
"It's a godawful thing," said Mike Flood, owner of Falls Church Florist in Virginia. "We're going to lose money, there's no doubt about it."
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