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Feb. 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM   |   Comments

Northeast braces for 100-year blizzard

BOSTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Snow fell Friday in the U.S. Northeast, which braced for what weather forecasters said could be a 100-year blizzard. People were stocking up on supplies.

Fierce winds were expected, with up to 2 feet of snow.

Drivers were asked to stay off the roads in Massachusetts. Thousands of workers stayed home.

AccuWeather.com said the storm likely would cause coastal flooding and power outages as well as white-out conditions and massive drifts.

Airlines suspended flights in and out of airports in New York and Boston, Amtrak announced it canceled service between the two cities, schools either closed or dismissed early.

Forecasters said the snow would be heavy and wet.

The worst of the storm was expected to hit coastal areas of northern New England and southern Nova Scotia later Friday night into Saturday, AccuWeather.com said.

On New York's Long Island -- which could receive more than 18 inches of snow -- the power company promised customers it was prepared, The New York Times reported. The utility was heavily criticized for its response to Hurricane Sandy last year.

In Boston, where snow started to fall around 9:30 a.m., schools were closed and mass transit in the city was to be suspended starting at 3:30 p.m., officials said.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said a state of emergency would take effect at midday and called for all vehicles to be off the roads. He said a decision on whether to make the request mandatory would depend on conditions.


Storm may slow manhunt for ex-LA cop

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- California authorities faced an approaching snowstorm Friday in their search for an ex-Los Angeles police officer wanted in the deaths of three people.

Investigators suspect Christopher Dorner of killing a police officer and another officer's daughter and her fiance in retaliation for Dorner's firing from the LAPD in 2008. Two other people were injured.

Police found Dorner's torched pickup truck Thursday near Big Bear Lake in a mountainous area about 100 miles east of the Los Angeles area where the killings took place.

Police said if Dorner hid in the mountains an approaching snowstorm could make the search more difficult. Early Friday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the area, with up to 10 inches of snow possible and wind gusts of up to 50 mph.

Authorities warned residents of mountain communities near San Bernardino, Calif., to stay indoors as police hunted for the former police officer.

"Dorner is considered to be armed and extremely dangerous," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

"He knows what he's doing -- we trained him. He was also a member of the armed forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved," Beck said.

Police sent protection teams to guard uniformed officers and their families overnight. Motorcycle police were ordered off the roads and told to patrol only in squad cars.


Senate Dems work on sequester alternative

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Democrats said they are working to craft an alternative to the $85 billion spending cut sequester scheduled for March 1.

"It's a work in progress," U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill.

However, Democratic senators said no agreement has been reached on the balance of tax hikes and spending cuts in a package, on the scope of the package or on how much of the sequester it would replace, The Hill reported Friday.

Key Democrats, after returning from a retreat in Annapolis, Md., where they discussed strategy with U.S. President Barack Obama, met Thursday in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office to look into options for preventing the sequester.

Senate Democrats and House Republicans are determined to not be blamed if the sequester -- across-the-board cuts in federal spending -- is allowed to go into effect, The Hill said. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the sequester would cut economic growth 0.7 percent and the Bipartisan Policy Center said it would cost 1 million jobs.

Obama, warning the economy would be harmed by the sequester, this week called on Congress to prevent at least some cuts with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.


Thousands of Tunisians mourn Belaid

TUNIS, Tunisia, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Thousands of mourners gathered in the Tunisian capital Friday for a funeral procession for Chokri Belaid, the opposition leader assassinated at his home.

Witnesses said the atmosphere in Tunis was calm in part because authorities decided to have a light military presence rather than a police contingent that could have incited protest, Britain's Guardian reported.

President Moncef Marzouki said flags throughout the country would be flown at half-staff Friday, a day of mourning for Belaid, 48, the general secretary of the Democratic Patriotic Party who was shot to death by unknown assailants outside his home Wednesday.

The funeral procession began in Djebel Jelloud, the Tunis suburb where Belaid grew up, and ended at El Jallaz cemetery for his burial in Martyr's Square, Tunisia Live reported.

Contrary to Tunisian traditions, Belaid's wife, Besma Khalfaoui, called on women to participate in the procession to the cemetery.

Tunisia's largest labor union called for a general strike nationwide Friday to coincide with the funeral.

Violent clashes followed news of Belaid's assassination and thousands of demonstrators were met by security forces that used tear gas and clubs to disperse the crowds. At least one officer was killed, authorities said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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