Northeast US tries to dig out, power up after latest storm

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A man clears snow off of his car on State Street in Danbury, Connecticut, during a snowstorm on March 7, 2018. (Carol Kaliff/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)
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Pedestrians walk along Delancey St. during a snowstorm on March 7, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Northeast US tries to dig out, power up after latest storm

HARTFORD, US: Residents in the US Northeast dug out from as much as 2 feet of wet, heavy snow Thursday, while utilities dealt with downed trees and power lines that snarled traffic and left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the dark after two strong nor’easters — all with the possibility of another storm headed to the area.
With many schools closed for a second day, forecasters tracked the possibility of another late-season snowstorm to run up the coast early next week.
“The strength of it and how close it comes to the coast will make all the difference. At this point it’s too early to say,” said Jim Nodchey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Massachusetts. “We’re just looking at a chance.”
Snow still was falling Thursday in places including Vermont, where storm warnings were in effect until the evening.
Police say an 88-year-old woman has been killed by a tree that fell and crushed her as she shoveled snow in the New York City suburbs.
Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn told the Journal News that Barbara Suleski was injured around 5 p.m. Wednesday and died at a hospital.
Neighbors were trying to help her when police arrived. Live wires wrapped around the tree made the rescue more difficult.
More than 800,000 customers were without power in the Northeast, including some who have been without electricity since last Friday’s destructive nor’easter. Thousands of flights across the region were canceled, and traveling on the ground was treacherous.
A train carrying more than 100 passengers derailed in Wilmington, Massachusetts, after a fallen tree branch got wedged in a rail switch. Nobody was hurt. Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for Keolis Commuter Services, which runs the system for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the low-speed derailment remains under investigation.
In New Hampshire, Interstate 95 in Portsmouth was closed in both directions because of downed power lines, leaving traffic at a standstill for hours.
Amtrak restored modified service between New York City and Boston on Thursday after suspending it because of the storm. New York City’s Metro-North commuter railroad, which had suspended service on lines connecting the city to its northern suburbs and Connecticut because of downed trees, restored partial service Thursday.
In Wells, Maine, the Maine Diner remained open even though much of the town was without power after the storm dumped a foot-and-a-half of snow.
“If people are going to lose power, then they need some place to go. We do everything we can to stay open and provide that service,” said Jim MacNeill, the restaurant’s general manager.
Steve Marchillo, a finance director at the University of Connecticut’s Hartford branch, said he enjoyed the sight of heavily snow-laden trees on his way into work Thursday but they also made him nervous.
“It looks cool as long as they don’t fall down on you and you don’t lose power,” he said.
The Mount Snow ski area in Dover, Vermont, received 31 inches of snow by Thursday morning with more still falling. The resort said the snowfall from the past two storms would set it up for skiing through the middle of April.
Montville, New Jersey, got more than 26 inches from Wednesday’s nor’easter. North Adams, Massachusetts, registered 24 inches, and Sloatsburg, New York, got 26 inches.
Major cities along the Interstate 95 corridor saw much less. Philadelphia International Airport recorded about 6 inches, while New York City’s Central Park saw less than 3 inches.
The storm was not as severe as the nor’easter that toppled trees, flooded coastal communities and caused more than 2 million power outages from Virginia to Maine last Friday.
It still proved to be a headache for the tens of thousands of customers still in the dark from the earlier storm — and for the crews trying to restore power to them. Eversource, an electric utility serving Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, said it could take several days to restore power for everyone due partly to the challenge of clearing storm debris and repairing damage.
Massachusetts was hardest hit by outages, with more than 345,000 utility customers losing service Thursday. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker shut down all non-essential state offices.
In Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage also closed state offices and encouraged residents to stay off roads “unless it is an absolute emergency.”
In New Jersey, the state’s major utilities reported more than 247,000 customers without power a day after the storm.
An 88-year-old woman in the New York City suburb of Suffern was crushed to death by a tree that fell as she shoveled snow Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief Clarke Osborn old the Journal News.
In North White Plains, New York, 10 people were taken to hospitals with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator inside a home, police said. All were expected to survive.
In Manchester Township, New Jersey, police said a teacher was struck by lightning while holding an umbrella on bus duty outside a school. The woman felt a tingling sensation but didn’t lose consciousness. She was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.


Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

Migrants walk behind a police car during their way from the Austrian-German border to a first registration point. (AFP)
Updated 5 min 3 sec ago
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Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

  • Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014
  • Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than 1 million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.
EASO said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
EASO says there is a still a backlog: More than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.
Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014.
Meanwhile, hard-liners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the burning issue by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he would order border police to turn back migrants.
Three years after her decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and misery elsewhere, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU, her Bavarian allies, over her refugee policy.
Merkel’s woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy’s refusal this month to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock.
Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals.
Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance, under which over one million asylum seekers have been admitted into the country since 2015.
He wants to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country — often their first port of call, Italy or Greece.
But Merkel says that would leave countries at the EU’s southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.
“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel told her CDU party’s leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to participants.

Popular misgivings over the migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power.
In Germany, voters in September’s election handed Merkel her poorest score ever, giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.
Several high profile crimes by migrants have also fueled public anger. They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an Iraqi.
With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.
“We must send a signal to the world: it’s no longer possible to just set foot on European soil in order to get to Germany,” a leading CSU figure, Alexander Dobrindt, told the party meeting.
Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: “It is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition.
“We just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back to the borders.”

Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system.
A populist-far right government in Italy and the conservative-far right cabinet in neighboring Austria have also taken an uncompromising stance.
Merkel’s talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an agreement in Brussels.
On Tuesday, she will also meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Germany.
Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of the EU summit.
“It would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit,” Welt daily said.
But the chancellor may have no choice, as Seehofer could still launch the nuclear option of shutting Germany’s borders in defiance of her — an act of rebellion which would force her to sack him.
That “would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and CSU,” an unnamed CDU source told Bild.