'Snowmageddon' hits US
A massive blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States yesterday, with mass flight cancellations, five states declaring states of emergency and more than two feet of snow predicted for Washington alone.
The US National Weather Service (NWS) said the winter storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region. NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin compared it to "Snowmageddon", the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010, but he said the weekend timing could help limit the number of deaths and damage.
"It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service. The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion (€925m) in damage and paralyse the eastern third of the nation, he said.
Uccellini said all the elements have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm.
Snowfall as heavy as one to three inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more, Kocin said.
A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and parts of other states. Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm's path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York.
Schools and government offices were closed, thousands of flights were cancelled and millions of people stocked up on supplies. Basketball games and concerts were also postponed.