Nearly a half of the US states were battered by the storm, from New Mexico to Maine in the northeast [GALLO/GETTY]

 

Over the past 36 hours, the US has been pounded by a huge snowstorm, huge in both size and strength.

The storm was well forecast, so at least there were a few days of warning. People could make alternative travel arrangements and make sure their cupboards were stocked with the essentials.

It was the usual set-up for an intense storm: Cold air digging down from Canada, clashing the warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. But this time the temperature difference was immense and the storm was explosive.

Nearly a half of the 50 US states were battered by this storm, from New Mexico all the way up to Maine in the northeast.

Some parts of the Midwest were buried under 60cm of snow. Chicago was swamped under nearly 50cm, making it the third largest snowstorm that the city has ever recorded. The heavy snow was hurled in by strong winds gusting up to 80kph, which blew the snow into deep banks nearly 2 metres high.

Drivers had to abandon their cars on Lake Shore Drive, one of the main avenues of Chicago, after getting caught in the storm. Nearly 24 hours later, the three lanes of cars remained motionless, in snowdrifts up to their windscreens.

But perhaps worse was the freezing rain that struck the northeast. Freezing rain, is rain as it falls, but as the ground is below 0 Celsius, it will freeze instantly when it lands. It covers everything it hits with a layer of ice. Roads turn into skating rinks, and power lines and trees are weighed down by thick, heavy ice.

New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania were all covered by more than 1cm of ice. This extra weight proved too much for the power lines, which toppled, giving power cuts for tens of thousands. And it wasn’t just power cables and trees that were toppled by the weight of the ice. A gas station canopy on Long Island and an airplane hangar near Boston were also brought crashing down.

The worst of the storm is over for most, but it’s not quite finished completely. The trailing leg of the storm still lingers over the Southeast, promising more disruption here. To the south of the Appalachians, Friday should bring nothing more than heavy, chilly rain, but to the north and west there will be a dangerous mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain once more.

Source: Al Jazeera