States in the eastern part of the US have begun receiving snow after a massive blizzard forecast for the weekend. Five states have declared an emergency, with up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow predicted for Washington, D.C.
"It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service (NWS) said on Friday. According to the NWS, the blizzard could be one of the worst winter storms to ever hit the region.
NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin said it was like the "Snowmageddon" that hit the capital in 2010. Affected regions could expect snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 3.5 centimeters) an hour to continue for 24 hours or more. Twelve to 18 inches of snow were forecast for Philadelphia and 8 to 12 inches for New York, Kocin said.
Administrators declared a state of emergency in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and some parts of other states. Schools and government offices were closed, subway and railways were halted and flights rescheduled for after the storm.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, more than 2,400 flights were canceled for Saturday. Services were expected to resume on Sunday afternoon.
Washington DC's mayor, Muriel Bowser, urged residents to go home and stay there. "I want to be very clear with everybody. We see this as a major storm. It has life and death implications," she told reporters on Friday.
Meanwhile, the federal government's offices closed on Friday noon, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying President Barack Obama would stay at his official residence during the blizzard. Washington DC's police said they had legalized sledding on Capitol Hill as long as conditions were safe.
Grocery store and supermarket shelves were bare on Friday after people piled up on supplies in anticipation of a tough weekend, including impassable roads and power outages.
mg/kms (AP, AFP)