Northeast  suffers salt shortage as snow piles up

A man walks past a pile of snow in Manhattan after the latest storm dropped more snow on the Northeast and caused a buildup of ice. Some areas reported salt shortages because of the unusually snowy winter. (Stan HondaAFP/Getty Images / February 5, 2014)

NEW YORK -- Roads were closed, transit was thrown into turmoil, a store awning collapsed and thousands of people were without power Wednesday as the second storm this week dumped heavy snow across the Northeast and left streets coated with ice.

“Nobody likes days like today,” New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said at a news briefing, where he repeated what has begun to sound like a mantra during the Northeast’s bitter winter: “If you don’t need to go out, you should not go out.”

Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey declared states of emergency as the storm hit overnight Tuesday and lasted into Wednesday, just a day after the previous storm.

The onslaught of snow has led to shortages of everything from salt to blood.

Cuomo, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, said the storm had been expected, but he added: “The shortage of salt is a complicating factor.”  Cuomo ordered 3,500 tons of road salt – about 130 truck-fulls – deployed to communities grappling with salt shortages.

In upstate New York and areas farther north, including Boston, snow was falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Some areas were expecting more than 10 inches of snow before the storm ended.

New York City was largely spared heavy snow, but freezing temperatures, icy roads and difficult traveling conditions led to a host of problems. In Union Square in Manhattan, the awning of a store collapsed, apparently under the weight of wet snow. There were no reports of injuries.

De Blasio said the city also was facing a blood shortage. “A lot of blood donations that normally come in have not happened,” he said. “We have a very serious situation on our hands where we need blood donations, and we need them quickly.”

The mayor said he would donate blood himself later.

Flightaware.com, which monitors flight activity, reported 2,667 cancellations and 2,373 delays around the country, with Newark's Liberty, Boston's Logan, and New York's La Guardia airports the hardest hit.

In New Jersey, ice on overhead wires caused problems on NJ Transit during the morning rush hour and suspended train traffic on some of the busiest lines linking New York and New Jersey. Service resumed by midday.

In New York, Cuomo ordered Interstate 84, one of the region's major highways, closed between Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Christie ordered state offices closed Wednesday and urged New Jersey residents to stay off the streets. The state's Public Service Electric and Gas Co. reported more than 30,000 customers without power as of midday. In Pennsylvania, more than 87,000 customers were reported affected by power outages.

New York, Massachusetts and other states hit by harsh weather also reported power outages but in far smaller numbers.

Schools were closed in most areas, but not in New York City, where De Blasio -- to the chagrin of many pupils -- has insisted on schools remaining open throughout this unusually snowy winter.

Without mentioning names, he said some cities "get paralyzed when they get 2 inches of snow."

"We just keep going," he said. "We're tough enough to handle it."

That claim will be tested again soon enough. Forecasters are predicting another blast of snow over the region Sunday and Monday.

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