Winter storm hits
hard in Northeast

The latest in a series of winter storms hit the United States on Wednesday, dropping wet, heavy snow in northeastern states that disrupted travel and threatened supplies of salt needed to keep roads clear.

Officials in New York and New Jersey warned that they were running short of the rock salt that road crews use to keep ice from building up on highways and local roads, the result of the season’s repeated storms. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) declared a state of emergency.

Almost 1 million homes and businesses were without power in the Northeast on Wednesday afternoon following severe snow and ice storms overnight, according to local power companies. The hardest-hit state was Pennsylvania, where more than 720,000 customers were without power. Other affected states were Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

The weather hit area airports hard, with about half the departing flights canceled out of Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia Airport and Boston’s Logan International, according to, an online flight-tracking site.

— Reuters

Teen who drove
drunk gets probation

A judge on Wednesday ordered a Texas teenager who was sentenced to 10 years’ probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents.

Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no prison time to Ethan Couch, the defense attorney and prosecutors said after the hearing, which was closed to the public. Prosecutors had asked Boyd to sentence him to 20 years in state custody on charges related to two people who were severely injured.

The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who said Couch’s wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition “affluenza.”

Couch was 16 at the time of the accident. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and there were traces of Valium in his system when he plowed his pickup truck into a group of people helping a woman whose car had stalled.

— Associated Press

Three arrested in violin theft: Three people were arrested in connection with the theft of a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen last week from the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, a prosecutor said Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the instrument had been recovered. The nearly 300-year-old violin, which has been appraised at $5 million, was on loan to concertmaster Frank Almond. He had just finished performing Jan. 27 at Wisconsin Lutheran College when a robber attacked him with a stun gun and seized the instrument.

Nuclear waste burial site catches on fire: Emergency crews battled a fire Wednesday at the southeastern New Mexico site where the federal government seals away its low-grade nuclear waste, including plutonium-contaminated clothing and tools. Six people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire about 11 a.m. at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. All employees were removed and none of the radioactive waste was affected, plant officials said.

— From news services