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Winter storm Stella hits US East Coast

The Northeast was paralyzed by the late winter storm - many schools closed, over 6000 flights were cancelled. While New York City was not hit as badly as expected, some rural regions expected up to two feet of snow.

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Storm Stella hits US East Coast

As storm Stella swept through the densely populated Northeastern United States on Tuesday, more than 6,000 flights were cancelled, nearly a quarter-million people from Virginia northward lost power, many trains were cancelled and schools were closed.

The storm – which turned into a blizzard in Massachusetts – gusted through the Washington-to-Boston corridor at nearly hurricane force over 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers), throwing the region back into freezing temperatures and heavy snow after a mild February had lulled people into thinking the worst of winter was over. Some 50 million people from Pennsylvania to Maine faced the "rapidly intensifying nor'easter", which usually hits the region much earlier in the winter.

Snow, ice and high winds has caused dangerous driving conditions. A 16-year-old girl was killed in a traffic accident in New Hampshire after losing control of her car on a snowy road and hitting a tree on Tuesday morning.

Most people followed the request by governors and mayors to stay home.

President Donald Trump said he had spoken to Homeland Security and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ready to provide assistance.

"Everybody in government is fully prepared and ready," he said. On Twitter, he shared a photo of a meeting with Washington DC's mayor to discuss storm preparations.

Railway service Amtrak suspended service and the post office halted mail delivery. Governors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia declared states of emergency.

All public schools in New York City - the largest U.S. school system – remained closed, as did schools in the Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and in many smaller cities.

New York City was hit less than expected – throughout the day, the National Weather Service corrected its forecasts from a record 18 inches (46 centimeters) or more to 4 to 6 inches of snow. Nevertheless, the above-ground portions of the New York subway system were shut down, and nearly 3,300 flights were cancelled, as the city closed all three major airports in and surrounding the city.

USA Zwei Ponys brechen während dem schneesturm aus ihrem Stall aus (picture alliance/AP Photo/T. Komar )

In New York City, two ponies broke free from their stables amid the snow and were later captured by an off-duty police officer

Things are now expected to be largely back to normal in the biggest city of the country by Wednesday's morning rush hour.

"Mother Nature is an unpredictable lady sometimes. She was unpredictable today," the New York State's governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters as the rest of the state experienced much higher snow than initially expected. 

Bob Clifford, a local on a grocery run in Albany, New York State, said that "the winters seem to be upside down now. January and February are nice and then March and April seem to be more wintry than they were in the past." He advised people to "Just hide inside. Hibernate."

USA Stella Kirschblüten in Washington (Reuters/J.Ernst)

The blooming cheery trees in Washington D.C. - usually seen as an indicator for the beginning of spring - were surrounded by snow on Tuesday

In Washington, the cherry trees on the city's museum strip, stood amid snow, with blooms encased in ice. Federal agencies in the US capital opened three hours later than usual.

In New Hampshire, some towns were forced to postpone elections because of the snow. Tuesday marked the state's traditional Town Meeting Day, where voters in more than 100 communities elect a number of local positions, such as library trustees.

For Wednesday, the US weather service predicted that parts of the Northeast could still be engulfed in the worst blizzard of the winter - some regions could expect up to 2 feet of snow.

mb/bw (AP, Reuters)

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