US snowstorm leaves four dead and thousands stranded

A fierce winter storm buried some areas in nearly three feet of snow and left more than 650,000 people without heat and power as it pounded the US North East.
The blizzard was blamed for four deaths in New York state and Canada. Airlines cancelled more than 5,000 flights and drivers stranded in their cars on a Long Island highway were given refuge in a local supermarket.

But in the two biggest cities in America's most populous region, the authorities were breathing a sigh of relief that they were not hit worse.

As day broke in Boston, the total had reached 14 inches, with snow still falling but the heaviest phase of the storm was over. Eight inches fell on Central Park in Manhattan and 11 inches in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

But the Connecticut town of Hamden was blanketed by 34 inches and much of the state received more than two foot of snow. Rhode Island's state capital Providence looked like a white-clad ghost town, with only emergency vehicles able to move.

Several governors declared states of emergency and in three states, cars were banned from major roads in an unprecedented measure. An hour east of New York in Stony Brook, residents were beginning to dig out after a 24 inch fall.
Winds gusting up to 75 mph whipped up drifts several feet deep and brought down power lines across the region. The howling winds and swirling snow caused near white-out conditions in many places.

Shops and fuel stations witnessed panic buying, not least in New York and New Jersey where memories of the havoc wrought by Hurricane Sandy barely three months ago are still deeply-etched.
The "monster storm" is the product of two weather systems smashing together -- one powering down on the Arctic jet stream from Canada while the other was a winter "nor'easter" barreling in from the North Atlantic. Forecasters called the combination a "meteorogical bomb".

In Manhattan, however, the world's fashion elite defiantly insisted that the shows must go on.

New York fashion week, one of the most important dates in the industry's calendar, is in full swing this weekend. And even as the snow swirled, female models swapped stilettos for snow-boots and flats and guests bundled themselves up in double coats as they made their way to runway shows.

"I'm wearing flats," said jewelry designer Mona Assemi, a note of wonder in her voice as she looked down at her feet. The self-described Washington-based "fashionista" said she is "always in heels" but had decided to be sensible in the face of the blizzard named "Nemo" by The Weather Channel.

Bundled up in a heavy coat, a fur hat and a cashmere scarf draped around her face like a balaclava, she was slowly making her way through driving wet snow to New York's Lincoln Centre, headquarters of fashion week.

Other fashion industry insiders were determined not to let a little snow deter them.

As two Bobcat snow-ploughs whirled noisily around the Lincoln Centre plaza, trying to keep the snow at bay, glamorous guests gingerly picked their way through the icy slush to the hall where the American designer Nicole Miller was showing on Friday evening.

Miss Assemi was one of many in the fashionable crowd who had not completely sacrificed style for function. Her boots, she said, were Yves St Laurent in black patent "and they're actually very comfortable".

Isaiah Isaac, an accessories designer and a writer for The Fashion List website, noted that some shows were less crowded than normal. "There've been a few empty seats because I think some people's flights were cancelled but it's all still more or less going ahead," he said.

Underneath his red coat, he was wearing two sweaters, a shirt and a vest -- though he said he had drawn the line at putting on long johns. "Not a lot of people are dressing down," he said. "They're still tip-toeing around in their heels. In fact, it's been the highlight of my day, watching them. It's really quite funny."

Texan fashion fans Courtney Kerr and Shannon Yoachum held on to each other and kept their heads down in the near white-out conditions. Although unused to this type of weather, the pair were determined to go to all the shows. "We don't sacrifice for fashion! Beauty is pain!" they squealed.

Fashion blogger Margie Ashcroft scoffed at the idea of Nemo making a dent in New York Fashion Week. "This is our livelihood, what we wait around for all year," she said. "We're not going to let a little bit of bad weather stop us."

The blizzard did force fashion designer Michael Kors to wear Uggs to travel to his Project Runway fashion show. "I came in looking like Pam Anderson," he joked to journalists, before changing into more tasteful leather boots. But most fashion observers thought the appalling weather was a chance to dress warmly but stylishly. "Crushing on the coat-over-coat layered look!" tweeted one fashion show attendee.