Nemo drops 2 feet of snow in northeast US; at least five dead

(Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)The entrance ramp to the Long Island Expressway is seen closed in the Suffolk County area of New York February 9, 2013.

A massive blizzard that hit the Northeast left several U.S. states covered in two feet (one meter) of snow, thousands without power, cars stranded on major highways and at least five dead.

Powerful storm Nemo slammed into New York and New England starting Friday, with the brunt of the storm hitting Friday night throughout early Saturday morning.

The winter storm knocked out power for 650,000 homes and businesses and contributed to the deaths of five people, three in a car accident in Canada, one in New York and one in Connecticut.

States of emergency were declared in the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine.

By Saturday morning, at least 38 inches (96 centimeters) of snow had fallen in Milford, Conn. All roads are closed in the state.

Police and firefighters had their work cut out for them Saturday as they worked to free hundreds of stranded motorists along the Long Island Expressway and get them to a warm shelter. Some spent the nights in the car, unable to open the doors as the snow buried their vehicles.

"The biggest problem that we're having is that people are not staying on the main portion or the middle section of the roadway and veering to the shoulders, which are not plowed," said Lieutenant Daniel Meyer from the Suffolk County Police Highway Patrol, according to ABC News. "The snow, I'm being told is already over two feet deep."

In New York, Long Island was hit the hardest with snowfall reaching over two feet. New York City got about 11-12 inches of snow. Taking a lesson from the massive blizzard that hit the city in 2010, the city's sanitation department contracted private snow plows to assist in clearing the roads.

Major Michael Bloomberg said the city "dodged a bullet."

"I think it's fair to say that we were very lucky," Bloomberg said at a press conference. "The storm certainly brought plenty of snow – about a foot in a lot of areas in New York City – but we certainly avoided the worst of it."

In Massachusetts, where up to three feet of snow is expected by the end of the storm, road conditions were so dangerous that Governor Deval Patrick enacted the first statewide driving ban since the 1978 blizzard.

Catholics were told by the archdiocese in Boston that they did not need to attend mass Sunday if travel conditions did not allow them to. Even though it is considered a serious sin to not observe the Sabbath, parishioners were told that the church law "does not apply where there is grave difficulty in fulfilling obligation."

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