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Mid-Atlantic storms leave trail of fallen roofs, power lines

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Collapsed roof at fire station punctures a natural gas line, igniting the blaze
  • Snow expected to hit swath South
  • Children going back to school in New York after three snow days
  • Snow blamed for the collapse of at least 22 roofs in Washington

(CNN) -- The living quarters of a fire station in Maryland exploded and burned Thursday after its snow-laden roof collapsed in the wake of the pair of record-setting snowstorms that howled through the mid-Atlantic region in the past week, state police said.

Crushed roofs were not uncommon in the region -- authorities in the District of Columbia reported 22 such incidents as a result of the heavy snowfall -- but the collapse at the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department stood out because it punctured a natural gas line, igniting the blaze, officials said.

Firefighters were out on a call when the roof fell about 7:40 a.m., Carroll County spokeswoman Vivian Laxton told CNN affiliate WBAL-TV. No injuries were reported.

In the aftermath of what some are calling "snowmageddon," thousands of people were without power and transportation departments were still trying to clean snowy, icy streets Thursday.

In Washington, more than 250,000 federal workers were told to stay home from work for a fourth day, and public schools were closed. But in New York, children went back to school after a three-day "holiday."

After a storm that dumped more than 30 inches of snow in some places last weekend, the latest part of the one-two punch dropped 22.5 inches on Baltimore, Maryland, 15.8 inches on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and about 10 inches on Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, Central Park in New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey, the National Weather Service said.

Records for total snowfall for the season have been set at Dulles International Airport west of Washington, with 72 inches; Philadelphia, with 70.3; Baltimore, with 70.1; Reagan Washington National Airport, with 55.6; and Atlantic City, with 48.7, according to the weather service.

The snow brought down tree limbs that in turn pulled down power lines.

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Ricky Watkins of Petersburg, in central Virginia, sent in a CNN iReport of a transformer near his home that erupted in sparks and flames after a tree downed power lines there Wednesday morning.

Although he said he was "used to the snow" after working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois, he said he had never seen a display like the one the transformer put on.

"I was not about to get any closer," he said. "It appeared that a transformer had fallen into a nearby tree and was about to catch it and the house on fire."

He said his power went out about 8 a.m. Wednesday but was back on by about 2:15 that afternoon.

Dominion Virginia Power reported only 3,400 outages by Thursday afternoon, most of them in southeast Virginia, but it was unclear whether all of those were storm-related, said utility spokeswoman La-Ha Anderson.

"We hope to have anybody affected by the storm yesterday to be back on today," she said. Dominion serves 2.4 million customers from the Washington metropolitan area to northern North Carolina.

Potomac Electric Power Co., which serves Washington and Maryland, had 1,900 customers without power, PEPCO spokesman Bob Hainey said Thursday morning. The utility hopes to get everybody's service restored by Friday, he said.

"We're cautiously optimistic," he said. "Our goal is to get everyone back on as soon as possible."

Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport reopened Thursday after closing to flights Wednesday afternoon. Amtrak was still providing limited service for Washington, New York and Boston, Massachusetts, on Thursday, but most passenger rail service south of Washington was canceled.

Amtrak said the weather had downed trees and power lines on portions of freight railroad tracks south of Washington, "requiring continued service cancellations in Virginia, and the Carolinas."

Seth Bishop, 18, a freshman at George Washington University, where classes were canceled, said he was unfazed by the snow.

"I'm originally from New Hampshire, so I'm used to snow," he told CNN's iReport. He said he had a good time touring the outside of snow-covered monuments on the National Mall and viewing sites in the northwest business district.

"It's pretty eerie, actually, because no one was around."

Bishop said he also was busy with other pursuits.

"I've been going through a bunch of snowball fights [and] getting some extra work done for classes."

As the mid-Atlantic region was digging out Thursday, another snowstorm was hitting Texas. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had recorded more than 6 inches by mid-afternoon Thursday. It was the most snow recorded at the airport since 7.5 inches on February 17, 1978.

The new storm was taking a more southerly route than the previous two. Accumulations of up to 5 inches were predicted for parts of southeast Mississippi and southwest and south central Alabama overnight Thursday into Friday.

Although the amount of snowfall predicted lessens as the storm moves through Georgia and South Carolina on Friday, isolated spots could see up to 6 inches, forecasters said.

CNN's Deb Kranjak contributed to this report.

 
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