HARI SREENIVASAN: The third major snowstorm in a month hovered over the Northeast U.S. today, bringing feet of snow and knocking out power across the region.
The snow was only part of the story. The wintry blast also packed hurricane-strength winds, rain, and flooding. The slow-moving storm left more than a million customers without power, and forced many businesses, schools and transportation systems to shut down. Snow plows struggled to keep up, as two to three inches fell every hour in some areas.
MAN: Been out for about 12 hours now. It keeps just coming down. It’s about 20 — it’s probably about two foot, 24 inches. It’s heavy, wet stuff.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in dangerous highway conditions, leading authorities to ban all trucks on the highway.
The storm claimed at least three lives, including one yesterday in New York City’s Central Park. Heavy snow brought down this 100-pound branch, killing a 56-year-old man.
Today, Mayor Bloomberg advised people to stay out of the area.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, mayor of New York: We’re really advising everyone to be very, very careful when they’re outside in these kinds of conditions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Many struggled through widespread transit delays during a difficult morning commute. Air travel was also snarled, with most flights canceled for the day in New York and in Philadelphia.
And the high winds also pushed a fire at an unoccupied hotel in Hampton, New Hampshire, out of control, with gusts of wind measuring more than 90 miles an hour. Twenty miles down the road, winds completely ripped off the roof of this motel in Gloucester, Massachusetts. No one was injured. Much of the region had just finished clearing snow from the last big storm.
MAN: Some winters are bad. Some winters are good. This is a bad one.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And residents are getting weary.
WOMAN: I am totally done with the snow. I am ready for spring, so ready for spring.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Snow totals from this storm could top three feet in some areas.
Economic news was mixed today. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy grew last quarter by nearly 6 percent, but consumer spending lagged. And, in the housing sector, there were still signs of trouble. Sales of existing homes plunged 7.2 percent in January, the lowest level since last June.
On Wall Street today, stocks rose slightly. The Dow Jones industrial average gained four points to close at 10325. The Nasdaq rose four points to close at 2238. For the week, the Dow lost seven-tenths-of-a-percent. The Nasdaq fell three-tenths of a percent.
The governor of New York, David Paterson, quit his campaign for a new term today, just days after announcing he was running. The Democrat faced mounting pressure to pull out of the race over his handling of a domestic violence case involving one of his top aides.
Speaking from his New York City office, Paterson insisted he never abused his office, but it’s become clear in recent days that he cannot run.
GOV. DAVID PATERSON, D-N.Y.: I am being realistic about politics. It hasn’t been the latest distraction. It’s been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public. Therefore, there are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service, but to step back. And that moment has come for me.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Paterson became governor in 2008, when former Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal.
Another New York politician, Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, refused calls to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. An ethics probe found he broke congressional travel rules by accepting corporate money to take trips to the Caribbean. Rangel insisted the report exonerates him because his staff never told him how the trips were financed. But the committee report shows staff tried to tell him at least three times. Rangel is also under investigation for other alleged ethics violations.
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers is stepping down. In a statement, the Obamas thanked Rogers for the terrific job she’s done. Rogers came under criticism for how she handled the Obamas’ first state dinner last November. A Virginia couple was able to get past security without an invitation and meet the president.
Rogers later admitted she didn’t have staff at the checkpoint to identify guests. She will leave her position next month to pursue opportunities in the corporate world.
Thailand’s highest court stripped former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of $1.4 billion of his assets. The funds were frozen right after he was deposed in a military coup in 2006. Thaksin addressed his supporters in Thailand via satellite from his exile in Dubai. The court left him with nearly a billion dollars of his wealth intact. The nine-judge panel said that, while prime minister, Thaksin shaped telecommunications policy in order to help his companies profit.