WASHINGTON — The eastern United States emerged wearily from a massive blizzard that dumped huge amounts of snow and killed at least 24 people, but Washington was still reeling, with government offices and schools to remain closed on Monday.
The storm – dubbed "Snowzilla" – walloped a dozen states from Friday into early Sunday, affecting an estimated 85 million residents who were told to stay indoors and off the roads for their own safety.
The 26.8 inches (68 centimeters) of snow that fell in New York's Central Park was the second-highest accumulation since records began in 1869, and more than 22 inches paralysed the capital Washington.
Near-record-breaking snowfall was recorded in other cities up and down the East Coast, with Philadelphia and Baltimore also on the receiving end of some of the worst that Mother Nature could fling at them.
But as the storm ended and temperatures rose, New York emerged from total shutdown and lifted a sweeping travel ban. Roads were reopened throughout the city, on Long Island and in New Jersey.
Thousands of people flocked to parks, tobogganing, organising snowball fights and strapping on cross-country skis, as children delighted in a winter wonderland under glorious sunshine.
Broadway resumed shows, which were cancelled on Saturday, and museums reopened, as snow plows quickly cleared the main avenues and temperatures hovered at about 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius).
Jessica Edwards, a filmmaker from Canada, joined in the fun, pulling four-year-old daughter Hazel down a hill in a sled in a New York park.
"Oh my God, she's so excited – we left the house this morning and we packed a bunch of stuff to make a snowman," she said.
But as the death toll from storm-related deaths rose, authorities advised caution despite the picture postcard scenes outside.
"We urge all New Yorkers not to travel on our roads except when necessary, and to be extremely careful when driving," Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference.
"Our tireless sanitation workers are out in full force and we must give them space to clear the roads. If you go outside, use caution and stay alert for ice and cold temperatures," he added.
In the nation's capital, which is not as adept at handling winter weather as the Big Apple, authorities struggled to get the city back up and running.
Major roads were clear downtown, but side streets were still piled high with snow. Public schools were to remain closed and only limited public transport to resume on Monday.
Metro fares were to be waived as trains would begin running only every 20-25 minutes, and only at underground stations on three of the city's six lines. Only a few key bus lines were to be in operation on Monday from 12-5 pm.
Limited flight operations were to resume from Reagan National and Dulles International airports in the US capital on Monday, a day after officials battled in New York to get some aircraft off the ground.
The House of Representatives opted also to remain out of session for the coming week due to the severity of the winter storm and related travel woes – with no votes set until February 1. — AFP