A new storm has plowed into the eastern US. The current bout of snow, wind and ice has triggered widespread road accidents and flight cancellations and left hundreds of thousands of people without power.
Thursday's storm shut down federal offices in Washington, DC, and left parts of New York City in near whiteout conditions. And parts of the East Coast can expect several more inches of snow.
At least 20 deaths, most of them in traffic accidents, were blamed on the storm as it made its way across the South and up the coast. More than 6,500 flights were cancelled. About 1.2 million homes and businesses lost power due to the storm.
By Thursday evening, some 550,000 customers remained in the dark, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.
Major television networks and forecasters have dubbed this, the latest brutal freeze of 2014 for the eastern states of the country, "snowmaggedon," "mind-boggling" and "historic."
The casualties caused by the storm include a 36-year-old pregnant woman in New York struck and killed early Thursday by a snowplow in a supermarket parking lot. At a hospital, doctors delivered her baby by cesarean section and it remains in stable but critical condition.
The usually temperate Southern states of North and South Carolina and Georgia saw hundreds of accidents. Traffic jams extended evening commutes by hours.
President Barack Obama has declared states of emergency in Georgia and South Carolina in order to quickly deploy federal resources.
"This storm is dangerous," North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said. "Road conditions are treacherous in many areas."
McCrory urged North Carolinians to stay indoors - even to sleep at work - rather than risk the treacherous roads. "If you're in a safe warm place, stay in a safe warm place," McCrory said on the news channel CNN. "We've already had two fatalities and we don't want to see more."
Moving up north
As the storm headed north, the US National Weather Service warned that the "mammoth dome" of Arctic air would cut a wide swath from Georgia to New England.
As the snow started blowing in overnight, temperatures hovered around 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C) but the wind chill made it feel more like 15 degrees, forecasters said. By mid-Thursday, both New York City and Washington, DC, had received about 8 inches of snow (20.32 centimeters).
On Thursday, the White House canceled its daily news briefing, and federal offices told workers to stay home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it had contacted offices in the densely populated states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to assess their needs. The Pentagon mobilized more than 2,300 members of the National Guard to assist with any weather emergencies.
mkg,jm/kms (AFP, AP)