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Massive blizzard cripples US East Coast

The blizzard paralyzing the US East Coast has peaked over New York, dumping near-record snow. The storm has been blamed for 19 deaths and coastal towns are awash with tidal surges.

Watch video 02:12

Blizzard blankets eastern US

Storm "Snowzilla" brought falls as deep as 28 inches (71 centimeters) on Saturday night in the New York metropolitan area as life came to a standstill for its 20 million residents.

Transport, including trains and buses, was suspended while airport closures left as many as 7,000 weekend flights canceled and Monday services in doubt.

Broadway theaters canceled shows, leaving only thin crowds shuffling through a near whiteout in Times Square.

Saturday's ban of most road travel in New York, declared as part of emergency rules by Andrew Cuomo, was expected to be eased on Sunday.

Snow plows struggled through Saturday night to clear streets in low visibility and howling winds.

Washington's Airports Authority said it was unlikely that normal operations would resume in its area Sunday and urged passengers to re-book flights.

Hypothermia, road accidents

The deaths of 19 people across the US Eastern Seaboard were attributed to storm-related road accidents, shoveling snow and hypothermia.

Motorists were left stranded for hours on snow-choked highways, including the buses of several university teams at the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

National Guard members using front-end loaders freed some vehicles on Saturday night.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan urged residents to "stay safe and stay at home while crews do their jobs."

Meteorologists described the storm, which began along the Gulf Coast, as the result of warm, moist Atlantic air colliding with cold air from the north.

The National Weather Service (NWS) had

already warned on Friday

that the blizzard could become one of the worst winter storms to hit the region recent centuries.

Snow also engulfed Baltimore and Philadelphia on Saturday, and left tens of thousands of residents in North Carolina without electricity.

One meter deep

The heaviest snowfall, according to unofficial reports, was 40 inches (100 centimeters) in West Virginia.

Areas as far north as Boston were warned to expect heavy snow.

The storm also caused tidal surge flooding along the New Jersey and Delaware.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie urged residents without power not to stay in the cold but to seek shelter "if you can" at the home of a friend or family member.

On a lighter note, a mass snow fight due at Washington's Dupont Circle was postponed until Sunday because of the storm's ferocity.

ipj/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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