Quarantine or not, tourists still flock to New Mexico

By Andrew Hay

RED RIVER, N.M. (Reuters) – In the New Mexico mountain resort of Red River, tourists from Texas stroll along Main Street, most disregarding Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s orders they quarantine and wear masks.

It’s the same in other New Mexican tourist towns such as Taos and Santa Fe, except nearly all their visitors wear face coverings – surrounded by signs warning of fines if they don’t.

Like governors in at least 15 states, Democrat Lujan Grisham has ordered out-of-state tourists to self-isolate, citing data that about one in 10 of New Mexico’s spiking COVID-19 cases comes from visitors.

Enforcing the orders is proving difficult, given the lack of a national plan, police reluctance to take on the massive task, and Americans’ penchant for driving hundreds or thousands of miles to vacation, even in a pandemic.

A U.S. road trip this summer means navigating through a patchwork of quarantine regulations across various states, most of them voluntary.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require travelers from 19 states with high COVID-19 infection rates to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. New York imposes fines.

Hard-hit Florida requires travelers from those three states to self-isolate for 14 days whether arriving by plane or car, or face a $500 fine.

Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont all have varying self-isolation rules.

‘TAKING AWAY OUR LIBERTY’

New Mexico published newspaper ads in neighboring Arizona and Texas, states respectively reporting 27% and 18% positive coronavirus test rates, urging their residents not to visit. Health experts consider a 5% rate to be worrisome.

But tourists keep coming.

“I think it’s bullshit. They’re saying the masks should work, so why should you be quarantined?” said Chris Fry, 59, a feed company manager from Dimmitt, Texas, staying in his cabin near Red River and stopping in town for ice before going fishing.

A 45-minute drive south in Taos Plaza, Louisiana tourist Christy Brasiel was frustrated the historic Native American community was closed to visitors and compared Lujan Grisham’s rules to “communism or socialism.”

“They’re taking away our liberty,” said Brasiel, 49, staying in an Airbnb rental to avoid her voluntary quarantine order enforced by local hotels that turn away out-of-state visitors.

As in cities across New Mexico, police in Red River have yet to issue citations for non-compliance to COVID-19 rules, said Mayor Linda Calhoun, a Republican, adding that she is encouraging businesses to require masks.

“We live off of tourists, that’s all we have, so it’s very difficult for us to enforce the order,” Calhoun said of the quarantine rule in her town nicknamed “Little Texas” for the number of visitors from that state.

Many locals in Taos County, where COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last month, are dismayed by the rule breaking.

“It doesn’t make any sense to be so selfish,” said lawyer Maureen Moore, 67.

“WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE”

Only three weeks ago, as outbreaks raged across the U.S. Sunbelt, New Mexico reported stable or declining daily cases.

A poor state with limited hospital capacity, New Mexico used early, tough restrictions to curb the pandemic.

But with its positive test rate rising above 4%, Lujan Grisham has scolded New Mexicans for letting down their guard since she eased restrictions on June 1, and on Monday re-closed indoor restaurant dining.

On a shortlist as a running mate to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Lujan Grisham has also rounded on tourism, the state’s second-largest industry.

“We don’t want you here now,” she told potential visitors in a July 9 press briefing, taking special aim at Texans. “I want you to stay in Texas.”

Lujan Grisham said New Mexico State Police would “aggressively” enforce her quarantine and mask orders. The force has handed out 13 verbal warnings for mask violations but none for quarantine non-compliance, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

The rules are piling pandemic pain on businesses in the state. Standing outside his Red River supermarket, business owner Ted Calhoun said Lujan Grisham had gone too far.

“Ordering visitors to do a 14-day quarantine is killing the tourist industry of New Mexico,” said Calhoun, the mayor’s husband.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Red River, New Mexico; editing by Bill Tarrant, Tom Brown and Alistair Bell)

U.S. measles outbreak spreads to Maine, 25th state to report case

FILE PHOTO: A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

(Reuters) – Maine became the 25th U.S. state to confirm a case of measles amid the country’s worst outbreak of the disease in a quarter century, as state medical officials on Wednesday reported that a child was infected but is now fully recovered.

The afflicted school-aged child from Somerset County, whose measles case was confirmed on Monday, was vaccinated and had no complications while the disease ran its course, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The report comes as measles cases have erupted across the country, with federal health officials reporting on Monday that 880 people have contracted the disease so far this year.

Health experts say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents cite concerns the vaccine may cause autism, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

Although the virus was eliminated from the United States in 2000, meaning the disease was no longer a constant presence, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said last month that 72% of the people infected with measles were unvaccinated. Of the others, 10% had at one of the two recommended vaccine doses, while the status of the remaining 18% was unclear, the agency said.

“The best protection against measles is vaccination,” Maine State Epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett said in a statement, adding that even when vaccinated individuals become ill, the severity of the disease is reduced and its spread is less likely.

(This story refiles to fixed dropped “a” in lead)

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Paul Simao and Susan Thomas)

Commuter jet slides off Maine runway as East Coast digs out from snow

A woman makes her way through the snow on cross country skis during a winter storm in Pallisades, New York March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Barbara Goldberg and Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – New England dug out from more than a foot of snow on Monday that snarled commutes, canceled nearly 1,800 airline flights and was blamed for injuries to five people after a commuter jet slid off a snowy runway in northern Maine, forcing the airport to close.

A pilot and four passengers suffered minor injuries when the United Express flight, a 50-seat Embaraer 145, veered off the runway at Presque Isle International Airport, in northern Maine, about 150 miles east of Canada’s Quebec City, on landing at about 11:30 a.m., the airport said on Facebook.

All five were transported to nearby Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital where they were treated and released, the airport said. The plane was damaged and would remain in place until Federal Aviation Administration officials could assess the scene.

“At this time, the airport is closed and officials are currently in discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine when the runway will be reopened,” the airport said.

A band of winter weather stretching from Maryland to Maine dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of New England, including 15 inches (38 cm) overnight on downtown Boston, National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard reported. New York City was spared the worst of the late-winter storm, although Mayor Bill de Blasio took the rare step of shutting the city’s massive public school system and New Jersey Transit canceled about a dozen trains on its sprawling commuter system.

The mayor defended the school closures on Twitter after snow totals in New York were less than expected and parents complained on social media that he had overreacted.

“We put safety first when we make a call on closing school. The overnight storm had more rain and less snow than forecasted. We know it’s tough for working parents – that’s why we made an early decision so New Yorkers could plan,” de Blasio said in a tweet.

More than 1,700 flights were canceled on Monday and another 4,500 were delayed, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com.

Government offices and libraries in Boston were closed. In New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, state workers had a two-hour delay.

“This is horrible!” said Steve Wesley, 56, as he shoveled snow from his driveway in Maplewood, New Jersey. Wesley’s two-mile local commute by car was delayed nearly two hours by the 4 to 6 inches of snow.

Commuting challenges may mount in the coming days as snow melts and temperatures drop, icing over roadways.

“Each day is a little bit cooler,” the National Weather Service’s Chenard said, noting the week’s highest temperatures for the Northeast will be in the low 30s (1 C).

“You’ll get some melting during the day, especially when the sun is hitting the snow, and then at night, it’s going to be cold enough to refreeze. Any road surfaces that aren’t treated certainly could get icy at night into the morning,” he said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)

Flooded streets and evacuations as storm pounds Boston and U.S. Northeast

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Seawater on Friday flowed onto some coastal streets around Boston, where businesses set up flood barriers and piled sandbags around their doors as a powerful storm threatened to flood pockets of the U.S. coast from Maine to Virginia.

Over 700,000 homes and businesses were without power in the U.S. Northeast, hundreds of flights were canceled at New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International, and the federal government closed offices in Washington.

It was the second time this year that Boston streets, including areas around the Long Wharf and the rapidly developing Seaport District, flooded in a winter storm.

“It’s crazy. I guess this is sea-level rise in action,” said Bob Flynn, 38, who had stepped out from his work at Boston’s Children’s Museum to survey a partially submerged walkway along the city’s Fort Point Channel.

Heavy rains, extreme high tides and a wind-driven storm surge could combine to cause several feet of water to flow onto streets in coastal Massachusetts, with government and private weather forecasters warning of a repeat of an early-January storm that drove a couple of feet of icy seawater onto Boston’s streets. High winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) could also bring extensive power outages.

“The winds are going to keep on increasing and the seas are going to go higher and higher for the next three high tide cycles,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. Floodwater surged in during high tide around 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT), and forecasters warned that strong winds coming in off the ocean could keep levels high through the next two high tides.

Residents of coastal areas that regularly flood in storms, including the towns of Newburyport, Duxbury and Scituate had been encouraged to evacuate their homes and head to higher ground, said Chris Besse, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

He added that it is hard to predict where the storm will take its heaviest toll.

“It could be that the first high tide washes away dunes from one beach and the second washes away houses,” Besse said.

Sarah Moran, a 59-year-old mother of six, was fretting whether her family’s oceanfront home in Scituate, Massachusetts, south of Boston, would survive the storm.

“Every house south of mine has been washed away since the 1978 blizzard. That risk is part of the package – the house comes complete with ocean views, taxes, maintenance and risks,” she said in a phone interview from Burlington, Vermont, where she owns a catering business.

The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine through coastal Virginia, including New York’s eastern suburbs, and was also tracking a snowstorm heading east from the Ohio Valley that could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State. It forecast storm surges of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) for eastern Massachusetts.

More than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power across the region, with the largest number of outages in New York, utilities said.

Federal offices closed on Friday in Washington, while dozens of schools throughout the region canceled classes. More than a quarter of flights into and out of New York’s three major airports and Boston’s airport were canceled, according to tracking service Flightaware.com.

Southern California was also facing weather dangers, with risks of rain-driven mudslides prompting mandatory evacuations ordered for some 30,000 people living near fire-scarred hills around the Santa Barbara coast.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump administration will allow states to test Medicaid work requirements

U.S. President Donald Trump attends the Women in Healthcare panel hosted by Seema Verma (R), Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017.

By Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Thursday it would allow states to test requiring some Medicaid recipients to work or participate in community activities such as volunteering or jobs training as a condition of eligibility for the government health insurance program for the poor.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued guidance making it easier for states to design and propose test programs that implement such requirements. States must propose such changes through waivers and receive federal approval.

Seema Verma, the agency’s administrator, said the policy guidance came in response to requests from at least 10 states that have proposed requiring some Medicaid recipients to work or participate in activities that may include skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving. Those states include Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana and Utah.

Certain Medicaid populations would be exempt from the rules, including those with disabilities, the elderly, children and pregnant women. Verma also said states would have to make “reasonable modifications” for those battling opioid addiction and other substance use disorders.

“This gives us a pathway to start approving waivers,” Verma said on a call with reporters on Wednesday. “This is about helping those individuals rise out of poverty.”

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement commonly known as Obamacare, 31 states expanded Medicaid to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, adding millions of people to the rolls.

Republicans have repeatedly failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, a top campaign promise of President Donald Trump. Instead, the Trump administration has sought to weaken the program through executive orders and administrative rules.

The Obama administration opposed state efforts to implement work requirements in Medicaid because it could result in fewer people having access to health insurance.

For instance, Kentucky last year proposed work requirements for able-bodied adults to get insurance and establishing new fees for all members based on income. A study found the proposal would reduce the number of residents on Medicaid by nearly 86,000 within five years, saving more than $330 million.

Republicans argue that Medicaid was created to serve the most vulnerable and has become bloated under Obamacare. Verma and other Republicans said implementing work and community engagement requirements could help improve health outcomes by connecting people with jobs and training.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Blizzard roars into U.S. Northeast, snarling travel

A lone visitor takes a picture near the brink of the ice covered Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Canada.

By Gina Cherelus and Scott Malone

NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) – The first major winter storm of 2018 bore down on the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, closing schools and government offices and disrupting travel as work crews scrambled to clear roads of snow before plummeting temperatures turn it to treacherous ice.

After bringing rare snowfall to the southeast a day earlier, the storm carried rapid accumulation and high winds to New York, where subway systems appeared less crowded than usual as many commuters heeded officials’ warnings to stay home.

Blizzard warnings were in place along the coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the National Weather Service forecasting winds as high as 55 miles per hour (89 kph) that may bring down tree limbs and knock out power.

More than a foot (30 cm) of snow was forecast for Boston and coastal areas in northern New England.

The storm is the product of a rapid and rare plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters are referring to as bombogenesis, or the so-called “bomb cyclone.”

The term comes from the merging of two words: bomb and cyclogenisis, according to private forecaster AccuWeather.

On Wednesday, the storm dumped snow on Florida’s capital Tallahassee for the first time in 30 years, and was expected to last through the day.

About 3,000 airline flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled ahead of the storm’s arrival on Thursday, with New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International seeing as many as three out of four flights called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Federal government offices planned to delay opening for two hours on Thursday, while state officials in Connecticut and Massachusetts ordered non-essential workers to stay home. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage ordered state offices closed for the day.

“Travel conditions are expected to be treacherous,” LePage said in a statement. “Avoiding unnecessary travel will keep accidents to a minimum and allow state and municipal road crews to safely go about their work.”

The snow storm brought a break in extreme cold temperatures that have gripped much of the region since Christmas, frozen part of the Niagara Falls, played havoc with public works and impeded firefighting in places where temperatures barely broke 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 centigrade).

But forecasters warned temperatures would drop sharply on Friday and into the weekend. That left work crews scrambling to clear snow off roadways and sidewalks on Thursday before it freezes to ice and makes conditions more treacherous for pedestrians and drivers alike.

“These are tough conditions to move around in, so if you don’t need to be on the road … you shouldn’t,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter. “Everyone needs to take this weather very seriously.”

Schools were ordered to close in New York, many parts of New Jersey, Boston and other cities through the region.

A woman walks down the street during a blizzard in Long Beach, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018.

A woman walks down the street during a blizzard in Long Beach, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

SOUTHERN SNOW

Private forecaster AccuWeather said snow would fall quickly during the day, at a rate of several inches per hour, with the storm intensified by the bombogenesis effect.

The phenomenon occurs when a storm’s barometric pressure drops by 24 millibars in 24 hours. As a result, the accumulation of snow and winds intensifies, which can cause property damage and power outages.

More than 35,000 customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia early on Thursday, utilities reported online.

A part of US-13 at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia was closed due to high winds early on Thursday while state transportation departments throughout the region reported dozens of delays due to deteriorating roads conditions.

Late on Wednesday, a baggage car and two sleeper cars on an Amtrak train traveling from Miami to New York, with 311 passengers aboard, derailed as it was slowly backing into a station in Savannah, Georgia. No one was injured, an Amtrak spokesman said.

The cold has been blamed for at least nine deaths over the past few days, including those of two homeless people in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum)

Erie, Pennsylvania, buried under record snowfall, ” a crippling snow event”

Silas Stueve plays in the snow after two days of record-breaking snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 27, 2017.

By Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) – A storm that has dumped more than 65 inches (165 cms) of snow this week on Erie, Pennsylvania, is expected to slightly taper off on Wednesday after leaving drifts that buried cars, paralyzed the area and made the county declare an emergency.

A general view of 1925 State Street after the record snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 26, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media.

A general view of 1925 State Street after the record snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 26, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. Courtesy of Instagram @BLJEFFERYS /via REUTERS

But the respite for Erie, a city of about 100,000 in northwest Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie, is expected to be short-lived, with a fresh round of winter storms coming Thursday night predicted to bring as much as 10 inches more snow, forecasters said.

“This is a crippling snow event,” said Zach Sefcovic, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

“They are no strangers to snow in that part of the state, but this much snow in that short a time is just unprecedented,” he said in a telephone interview.

Large parts of the United States were gripped by freezing weather, with an area stretching from Montana to Maine expected to see temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12.2 degrees Celsius) early on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

People help dig out a car from a parking spot after two days of record-breaking snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 27, 2017.

People help dig out a car from a parking spot after two days of record-breaking snowfall in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 27, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Frank

The winter blast in Erie was caused by cold Arctic air moving over the lake, which had relatively mild water temperatures, forecasters said.

The storm broke a 59-year-old record for a two-day snowfall in Pennsylvania, topping the 44 inches that fell in 1958. Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper issued a temporary disaster emergency declaration that mobilized resources to help the area.

Pictures of residents on social media showed drifts reaching beyond window-levels in houses and people clearing paths through chest-high accumulations.

“Out of Doritos. Family is arguing. Dogs are getting ornery. It’s been 3 days since my last chicken wing. We are out of whiskey,” wrote Nicole Massari on her Instagram account @theworldaroundnikki, along with a video showing her Pennsylvania home surrounded by snow.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf deployed 21 Pennsylvania National Guard troops along with some all-terrain military vehicles to the region on Tuesday to help residents dig out and transport emergency responders around the area.

Erie resident Brian Sheridan on Wednesday posted a photo on social media showing the top of his mail box peeking out underneath a mound of snow. In a caption, he wrote: “At this point, it just might be easier to put a hold on our mail until spring.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Texas; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andrew Hay)

Maine governor will not expand Medicaid, ignoring voters

Maine governor will not expand Medicaid, ignoring voters

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage said on Wednesday he will not expand the state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare, ignoring a ballot initiative widely backed by voters, calling it “ruinous” for the state’s budget.

Maine looked set to become the first state in the nation to expand Medicaid by popular vote.

About 60 percent of voters in Maine approved the ballot proposal in Tuesday’s election, according to the Bangor Daily News newspaper.

Republicans in Washington have failed several times to pass legislation that would dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

LePage said he will not implement the expansion until it is fully funded by the Maine legislature.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said in a statement. “I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”

LePage said a previous Medicaid expansion in Maine in 2002 had created $750 million in debt to hospitals and took resources away from vulnerable people.

Maine has been prominent in the nation’s healthcare debate. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, helped block her party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare. Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment on LePage’s decision.

Maine voters were asked to approve or reject a plan to provide healthcare coverage under Medicaid for adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 is about $16,000 for a single person and about $22,000 for a family of two.

If implemented, about 70,000 additional state residents would be eligible for the Medicaid program, local media reported, in addition to the roughly 268,000 people who are currently eligible.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Voters in Maine approve expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare

Voters in Maine approve expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Voters in Maine on Tuesday approved a ballot initiative to expand the state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare, sending a clear signal of support for the federal healthcare law to lawmakers in the state and Washington D.C.

The approval of the ballot question in Maine comes after Republicans in Washington failed several times over the last few months to pass legislation that would dismantle the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Maine has recently figured prominently in the nation’s debate on how to reform healthcare. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, helped block her party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare this year, which angered President Donald Trump.

Maine, which becomes the first U.S. state to approve Medicaid expansion by ballot initiative, is one of 19 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

About 60 percent of voters in Maine approved the ballot initiative, according to the Bangor Daily News newspaper.

Tuesday’s ballot asked Maine voters to approve or reject a plan to provide healthcare coverage under Medicaid for adults under the age of 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 is about $16,000 for a single person and about $22,000 for a family of two.

The state’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, staunchly opposes expansion of federal health care insurance, vetoing legislation to do so on several occasions.

“I’ve said it before, “free” is very expensive to somebody,” LePage said in a radio address last week.

About 70,000 residents in Maine would be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program when and if state officials certify the results of the election. Lawmakers could vote to repeal or alter the referendum, much like they have recently for several citizen-initiated referendums, the Bangor Daily News reported.

“It is now the responsibility and the duty of the governor and the legislature to fully and faithfully implement this law,” the state’s Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon, said in a statement.

The Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review in Maine estimated that expansion of Medicaid would cost the state about $55 million and bring in about $525 million of federal money to the state each year, according to the Bangor Daily News.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Windy rainstorm whips U.S. Northeast, cutting power to hundreds of thousands

Storm Summary has been initialized for the deep low pressure system which is bringing damaging winds, heavy rain across the Northeast, even some snow over West Virginia.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fierce winds and heavy rain downed trees and knocked out power across the U.S. Northeast, halting trains during the Monday morning commute and leaving neighborhoods from Boston to Washington in the dark.

Wind gusts of 82 miles (131.97 km) per hour were reported on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, while steady rain from Sunday into Monday dumped up to 4 inches (10.16 cm) of water across New England, said National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“There has been quite a bit of wind, and when the ground gets wet like this, trees fall,” Chenard said.

Amtrak train service between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended early on Monday as crews scrambled to clear branches and restore power, authorities said.

Connecticut commuters piled onto buses or sought alternative routes after Metro-North Railroad suspended service on its New Canaan line and on its Danbury line, which it said on Twitter was hampered by a mudslide and related signal problems.

More than 800,000 homes and businesses lost electricity overnight throughout the Northeast, including about 300,000 customers in Massachusetts, 270,000 in New Hampshire, 142,000 in Rhode Island, 30,000 on New York’s Long Island, 56,000 in Maine and 35,000 in Vermont, according to local media.

Early on Monday, traffic lights in parts of Washington remained dark due to power outages.

The storm hit the East Coast on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. That late-season hurricane killed at least 159 people in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, and damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes.

The National Weather Service said the heaviest rains and winds ended late on Monday morning, but lighter precipitation and some gusts would persist throughout the day.

“The biggest potential now is for more trees to come down and for minor-to-moderate river flooding in eastern New York and much of New England today into tomorrow,” Chenard said.

It was not immediately known how long it would be until power is fully restored.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)