A massive snow storm is expected to hit the US east coast today, paralysing the eastern third of the nation as high winds and blizzards are expected to dump up to 30 inches (76 cm) of snow, including on Washington DC.
A state of emergency has been declared in Washington DC and five states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania. In Virginia, the national guard said it planned to bring in up to 300 troops to assist in response operations.
The director of the National Weather Service said all the ingredients have come together to create blizzards with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm.
“It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,” said Louis Uccellini.
Washington looks like the bullseye of the blizzard, with New York City just inside the slow-moving storm’s sharp northern edge, which means it is likely to see heavy accumulations, Uccellini said.
Uccellini said it won’t be quite as bad as Superstorm Sandy, but people should expect high winds, a storm surge and inland flooding from Delaware to New York. Other severe but non-snowy weather is likely from Texas to Florida as the storm system chugs across the Gulf Coast, gaining moisture.
Blizzard warnings have been issued in Washington and Baltimore, with extreme conditions expected to begin on Friday afternoon. New York was under a blizzard watch for Saturday morning.
Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Paul Kocin compared the storm to “Snowmageddon,” the first of two storms that “wiped out” Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow in places.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which includes the second-busiest US subway system, said it would suspend operations from late on Friday through to Sunday to ensure staff and passenger safety. Underground stations usually stay open during major snowstorms.
Airlines began cancelling Friday and Saturday flights, with many of the more than 5,000 cancellations for Friday and Saturday at Washington and North Carolina airports, according to FlightAware.com.
American Airlines scrapped all Friday flights into North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and Delta Air Lines canceled about 120 flights in the Southeast region. American scrapped most Saturday flights into Washington, New York and Philadelphia, and Delta was poised to cancel many of the same.
The National Weather Service said blizzard conditions could be life-threatening across much of the mid-Atlantic on Friday night and early Saturday.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged motorists to stay off roads, starting on Friday.
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