WARNING : Several states, DC urged to brace for potentially historic snowstorm

Several states, DC urged to brace for potentially historic snowstorm

WARNING : Several states, DC urged to brace for potentially historic snowstorm

Tens of thousands of desperate travelers crowded Washington, D.C. airports Friday, hoping to board flights and get out of town ahead of a powerful winter storm that Mayor Muriel Bowser warned carried “life and death implications.”

More than 2,400 flights were canceled for Friday, most in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Thousands more were delayed. All flights into and out of Philadelphia International Airport have been canceled for Saturday, when the blizzard conditions are expected to be in full swing.

All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms.

The storm is expected to hit areas around the nation’s capital the hardest, dropping more than 2 feet of snow.

The federal government announced that its offices would close at noon Friday. Officials say Washington’s Metro subway system is set to shut down entirely late Friday night and remain closed through Sunday for the safety of workers and riders. Underground stations usually stay open during major snowstorms.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings stretching from northern Virginia to parts of New York’s Long Island, where the U.S. Coast Guard warned seas could swell up to 18 feet. The blizzard warnings are scheduled to last until early Sunday.

Forecasters also warned of “thundersnow,” a dangerous type of thunderstorm that drops snow instead of rain.

“The most intense part of the storm will come Saturday morning from around 4 a.m. through 12 p.m,” said Fox 5 DC meteorologist Gary McGrady. “We can expect heavy snow, possibly 2 inches per hour, and blizzard conditions with 30 to 35 mph winds creating legitimate whiteout conditions.” McGrady added that his forecast called for between 1 and 2 feet of snow to fall in the national capital region before all was said and done.

That same storm system dropped 6 inches of snow in the Little Rock area overnight, breaking a snowfall record set more than 20 years ago. Schools and state government offices in central Arkansas shut down on Friday. The state’s largest utility, Entergy Arkansas, said about 12,500 homes and businesses lost power

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The Mid-Atlantic region is notorious for struggling to cope with winter weather, and a light dusting on Wednesday night served as an ominous prelude to the massive blizzard.

Less than an inch of snow was enough to immediately turn roadways treacherous in the District, Maryland and northern Virginia, causing hundreds of accidents and leaving drivers gridlocked for hours. President Obama wasn’t spared, as his motorcade slowly weaved and skidded along icy streets to the White House.

The U.S. Capitol Police said sledding on Capitol Hill — which only recently became legal after an act of Congress — would be welcome for the first time in decades, as long as conditions are safe.

NWS Director Louis Uccellini warned at a news conference that the snowfall could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation.

“It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,” Uccellini said at the service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Prediction center meteorologist Paul Kocin estimated more than 2 feet of snow for Washington, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and eight inches to a foot in New York.

That could put this snowstorm near the top 10 to hit the East, with the weekend timing and days of warning helping to limit deaths and damage, said Kocin, who compared it to “Snowmageddon,” the first of two storms that “wiped out” Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow in places. 

Unfortunately, more than just snow is coming. 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.

Icy conditions starting late Wednesday caused accidents that killed four drivers in North Carolina and at least one in Tennessee. A truck with a snowplow killed a pedestrian while it was snowing in Maryland.

In New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said about 1,000 track workers will be deployed to keep New York City’s subway system moving, and 79 trains will have “scraper shoes” to reduce icing on the rails.

Source : www.foxnews.com

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