Power Lines
Wet, heavy snow can bring down power lines very quickly. Image: Flickr / Mrs. Gemstone / CC-BY-SA

Over the weekend, a surprise snowstorm hit the Northeastern United States. The late-October snowstorm has knocked out power for millions, killed at least nine and led to two airlines facing millions in fines.

Snow like wet cement

The late-October storm that hit much of the Northeastern coast was surprising for many reasons. The wet, heavy snow iced over many trees that had not yet lost their leaves. The snow collected on the leaves and weighted them down to the point of breaking branches. When branches broke off, most took power lines with them. Since the storm, the temperature has hovered around freezing, which means that snow is melting and re-freezing, causing a wet cement texture that is difficult to remove and very heavy.

Millions without power

The weekend storm originally knocked out power for up to 4 million customers in the Northeast. Since then, power has been to restored to many customers. However, 1 million customers are still without power, and estimates put the final time that power will be restored as late as Tuesday – five days after the storm hit. The storm has severely damaged trees, power poles and and roads throughout the Northeast. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told the Hartford Courant:

“This is an historic storm. This is the largest number of power outages we have ever experienced.”

Airlines facing fines

Both JetBlue and American Airlines face several millions of dollars in potential fines for flights that were delayed by the storm. As the storm shut down JFK airport, 23 flights were diverted to a small, local airport. The 1,000 to 1,500 passengers were stuck in six JetBlue flights and one American Airlines flight for as long as seven hours. The small airport, which usually handles 17,000 customers a day, said that “resources were stretched to the limit.” Current law provides for a fine of $27,000 per passenger stranded on a tarmac. No fines have yet been levied against the airlines, but the Department of Transportation has the right to levy these fines.


MarketWatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jetblue-aa-face-fines-over-stranded-planes-2011-10-31?dist=afterbell
Sun Sentinel: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miami-dolphins/fl-andrew-carter-stuck-on-plane-1031-20111030,0,4484704.story
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/nyregion/1-million-still-in-dark-after-destructive-weekend-storm.html
MSNBC: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45100861/ns/today-weather/t/power-outages-could-last-days-due-wet-cement-snow/#.Tq8OXmMre_0

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