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Freezing winter storm engulfs US east coast

New York/Philadelphia, Feb. 13 (Reuters): A winter storm that froze the US southeast in its tracks pushed north today, with driving winds and heavy snow snarling travel and closing many schools from Washington to Connecticut, creating havoc for winter-weary parents.

Hundreds of thousands of Georgia, North and South Carolina residents hit by a heavy blast of ice a day earlier, remained without power as the storm made its way up the coast, threatening to drop up to 30cm of snow across the region.

The repeated winter storms are taking a toll on schools and families, as snow-related cancellations left parents scrambling to find child-care options and administrators looking at making up lost days by extending classes into the summer.

New York City Public Schools, which have taken only one snow day this year, proved a glaring exception and remained open. Dagna Natoli, 33, who lives in the city’s Staten Island borough, said it took her a half-hour to drive her 5-year-old son to school today, much longer than the usual five minutes.

About 5,544 domestic US flights were cancelled and another 978 were delayed today, with Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport the hardest hit, said flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

About 1,000 people spent the night on cots and mats at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, the airport said.

The decision to keep New York City schools open drew some criticism from teachers, who said it was unwise to expect children to travel in dangerous conditions.

“Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted,” said United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew. City schools chancellor Carmen Farina defended the call, saying: “Many of our kids don’t get a hot lunch and, in many cases breakfast, unless they go to school.... My decision is where the kids are safest and the most taken care of, and the answer to that is in schools.”

 
 
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