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Northeast Storm Live Updates: Snow Cloaks a Region and Power Failures Mount

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Near-blizzard conditions consumed portions of the East Coast on Wednesday evening as snow piled up, crashes clogged roadways and around 235,000 people lost power.

The storm, the second nor’easter in a week to batter the region[1], included rounds of intense “thundersnow[2]” and lightning. In New York, up to 13 inches of snow had been reported in some places, and two to three inches per hour were falling on Long Island. In New Jersey, state troopers had responded to more than 350 crashes by late afternoon. And in Connecticut and Massachusetts, officials warned of dangerous driving conditions as rush hour coincided with the brunt of the storm.

Here’s the latest:

• Conditions deteriorated throughout the day. “If you don’t need to be on the road, don’t be on the road,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, who closed state offices at midday. “Just stay home.”

• Snowfall totals are varying widely. By 5:30 p.m., 16 inches had been reported in West Milford, N.J., nine inches in Danbury, Conn., and about five inches in Albany. When measurements were taken at Kennedy Airport, only two inches of snow had fallen.

• Even more was expected to come. Twelve to 18 inches were anticipated in Orange, Putnam and Rockland Counties in New York, as well as in Allentown, Pa.; northwestern Connecticut; and Central and Western Massachusetts. In Pennsylvania, members of the National Guard were on standby in some eastern counties.

• In New York City, seven to 11 inches had been predicted, although Central Park had recorded only 2.5 inches at 7 p.m. For more on travel conditions in the city and the surrounding areas, read New York Today here[3].

• Travel plans were disrupted nationwide. More than 2,700 flights had been canceled across the country on Wednesday, according to FlightAware, including hundreds at each of three major airports serving the New York area. Nearly 1,900 more flights had been delayed. Amtrak[4] modified service in the region and the Metro-North Railroad announced a reduced schedule for Wednesday and Thursday[5].

• Thousands of people were already without power. FirstEnergy, a utility company, reported a combined 48,000 customers without service in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

• Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston announced that city schools would be closed on Thursday.

• Do you have a question about the causes of dangerous winter storms? Ask John Schwartz, a New York Times reporter who covers climate change and the environment, for an answer by emailing storms@nytimes.com. Here are some answers so far.[6][7]

Sign up for the Morning Briefing[8] for news and a daily look at what you need to know to begin your day.

A woman struck by lighting in New Jersey is expected to survive.

The “thundersnow” on Wednesday brought quick accumulation and excited social media activity along parts of the coast. But its accompanying lightning injured a middle school teacher in Manchester Township, N.J., who was holding an umbrella while outside on bus duty.

“After the incident, she was escorted into the school building by two other teachers and taken to the nurse’s office,” the Manchester Township police said in a news release.

The teacher, a 33-year-old woman, was hospitalized and expected to survive.

A brief pause in business as a town prepares for 16 inches of snow.

Winter storm warnings were in effect Wednesday afternoon for much of the Northeast, including a swath from southern New Jersey to northern Maine.

The biggest snows in Massachusetts were expected in the western and central parts of the state. In Worcester, which often records the state’s highest levels of snow, businesses were closing early on Wednesday in anticipation of as much as 16 inches, but residents expressed little anxiety.

“We’re New Englanders, we’re used to it,” said Jodi Brennan, a waitress and manager at Lou Roc’s Diner in Worcester.

She said the diner closed early to allow workers to get home before they became trapped, but it would open Thursday as usual, regardless of how much snow had fallen. “It has to be really, really, really bad for us to close — unless of course there’s no power,” she said.

But she predicted that even 16 inches would not leave much of a mark at this time of year.

“It’s going to come and go,” Ms. Brennan said, “and spring will be here before you know it.”

But even as the storm moved into New England, the National Weather Service warned of “high uncertainty[9]” in snow totals, with thin bands separating paltry dustings from major accumulations on forecast maps.

As of about 7 p.m. Wednesday, Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the Weather Service office in Taunton, Mass., said that Franklin County in northwest Massachusetts had recorded the most snowfall — around five to eight inches.

But he cautioned that the storm has “got a ways to go yet.”

“It’ll be snowing all night, and places where it’s raining, it’ll be changing over to snow,” he said.

Officials had not heard from Worcester, so Mr. Dunham said it was not clear how much snow had accumulated there.

Coastal flooding was also possible in New England, and heavy, wet snowflakes were expected to place power lines in peril.

The evening commute could get messy.

Road crews in several states were trying to mitigate the effects of a difficult evening commute and urging drivers to take precautions, and officials banned semi trucks from some highways in Pennsylvania and New York as the snow intensified.

Strong winds were a concern during the morning commute in Boston on Wednesday.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

In Connecticut, where state offices were closing early, Gov. Dannel Malloy encouraged companies to allow employees to work from home if possible. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted that “everyone should expect a long & challenging commute home.” And in New York City, where 1,600 snowplows[10] were waiting to be deployed, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to take precautions.

“Use common sense,” he said. “If you can leave work early and get home earlier, please do.”

Patience is ‘running thin’ among people who are still without power from last week’s storm.

The storm came just a few days after heavy snow and high winds assaulted the region on Friday[11], which knocked out power for 2.7 million.

In Pike County, Pa., about 85 miles northwest of New York City, thousands of residents still without power were suffering through another round of severe weather on Wednesday.

Matthew Osterberg, the chairman of the county commissioners, said in a phone interview that the snow began intensifying around midday and that he was worried about more electricity loss.

“It’s been six days now” without power for some residents, Mr. Osterberg said, and patience was “running thin.”

The lengthy loss of power in his rural county was causing problems beyond what city-dwellers might experience. Mr. Osterberg said most of his constituents depended on electric-powered wells for water, and the local septic system also needed electricity.

“When somebody’s lost power in the back sections of Pike County,” he said, “it just stops everything.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said in a briefing on Tuesday[12] that 78,000 people were still without power in the state, which he considered “unacceptable.”

“These storms have now become the rule rather than the exception, and they have to have the capacity to quickly restore power,” he said.

Is there some connection between climate change and this cold weather?

Scientists have been looking at phenomena like cold spells[13], which occur when air from the Arctic dips south. After all, the Arctic is warming as a result of climate change, and that appears to be weakening the jet stream, which tends to hold that cold air up toward the top of the world.

As Marlene Kretschmer, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told The Times in January, the connection is not yet fully established. “There’s a lot of agreement that the Arctic plays a role, it’s just not known exactly how much,” she said. “It’s a very complex system.”

Read more answers to common questions about winter storms[14].

Reporting was contributed by Mitch Smith, Katharine Q. Seelye, John Schwartz, Maggie Astor and Matt Stevens.

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References

  1. ^ the second nor’easter in a week to batter the region (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ thundersnow (twitter.com)
  3. ^ New York Today here (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Amtrak (www.amtrak.com)
  5. ^ and Thursday (twitter.com)
  6. ^ storms@nytimes.com (mobile.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ Here are some answers so far. (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ Sign up for the Morning Briefing (www.nytimes.com)
  9. ^ high uncertainty (twitter.com)
  10. ^ 1,600 snowplows (twitter.com)
  11. ^ heavy snow and high winds assaulted the region on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  12. ^ briefing on Tuesday (www.governor.ny.gov)
  13. ^ Scientists have been looking at phenomena like cold spells (www.nytimes.com)
  14. ^ common questions about winter storms (www.nytimes.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

Image
Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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