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Thursday December 12th, 2019 10:09PM

Deadly storm moves cross country taking aim at Northeast

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands delayed for travelers heading home after the Thanksgiving holiday as a deadly winter storm moved to the Northeast on Sunday, packing one last punch of snow and ice.

The National Weather Service predicted more than a foot (0.3 meters) of snow in swaths of upstate New York and New England, as well as ice accumulations in parts of Pennsylvania.

“We've got our shovels ready. We've got the snowblower ready. We're prepared,” said Paul Newman of Wethersfield, Connecticut.

In New York, numerous schools announced closings and Gov. Andrew Cuomo advised non-essential state employees to stay home as the storm was forecast to bring snow, sleet, wind and rain through the day Monday.

State police had responded to more than 550 storm-related crashes across New York by 7 p.m. Sunday and Cuomo placed National Guard personnel on standby. Icy roads caused numerous crashes on Interstate 84 in Pennsylvania on Sunday and a section of Interstate 81 north of Binghamton was closed because of icy conditions for a while.

The same storm has been pummeling the U.S. for days as it moved cross country, dumping heavy snow from parts of California to the northern Midwest and inundating other areas with rain.

It has been blamed for several deaths.

The bodies of a boy and a girl, both 5, were found in central Arizona after their vehicle was swept away Friday while crossing a swollen creek.

Two adults and four other children were rescued by helicopter, but a 6-year-old girl is still missing. Rescuers are combing the area of Tonto Basin, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix, with helicopters, drones, boats and dogs.

“We want to bring her home safely to her family,” said Lt. Virgil Dodd of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office. “She needs to come home today, and we're going to do that.”

Two boys, ages 5 and 8, died Saturday near Patton, Missouri, when the vehicle they were riding in was swept off flooded roads.

A 48-year-old man died in a separate incident near Sedgewickville, Missouri, and a storm-related death was reported in South Dakota.

Also in South Dakota, a small-engine plane carrying 12 people crashed shortly after takeoff Saturday afternoon, killing nine people and injuring three others. Federal aviation investigators are looking into whether snowy weather was a factor.

Major highways reopened Sunday in Wyoming and Colorado, a day after blizzard conditions clogged roads with snow drifts.

Road crews were able to reopen all of Interstate 25 and most of I-80 in Wyoming early Sunday after strong winds abated. Major interstates in Colorado were also reopened.

Still, authorities warned travelers to remain alert for slick conditions and blowing snow.

The city of Duluth, Minnesota, was blanketed with 21.7 inches (0.6 meters) of snow as of 12 p.m. Sunday. City officials said streets were impassible and residents should stay inside.

Farther south, precipitation was in the form of rain and thunderstorms.

As the storm shifted east, flight delays and cancellations continued to pile up. As of 7:30 p.m., there were more than 800 Sunday flights cancelled in the U.S., compared with about 400 on Saturday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Nearly 6,000 U.S. flights were delayed.

Airports with the most canceled flights included San Francisco International Airport with 78 and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey with 60, according to FlightAware. Wind and rain caused some arriving flights at San Francisco to be delayed an average of 4.5 hours.

There were also dozens of flight delays in Chicago and Minneapolis.

In Denver, 100 flights were canceled Saturday because of high winds.

In the mountain communities northeast of Los Angeles, nearly 9,000 utility customers were without power because of the storm.

Another storm system developed in the mid-Atlantic Sunday and forecasters said it would move into a nor'easter through Monday.

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Follow Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send a direct message to share your experiences, photos and video of the storm, but please do so only when it is safe.

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Bob Moen in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska, Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut, Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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