US East Coast girds for up to 2-1/2 feet of snow
WASHINGTON – Washington D.C. and Baltimore were under blizzard warnings on Thursday and states of emergency were declared across the East Coast as preparations were made for a storm expected to bring up 30 inches (75 cm) of snow.
As the first major East Coast winter storm began dumping snow on the nation’s capital, residents from North Carolina to New York were told to stay indoors, avoid travel and stock up on food and other necessities.
Shoppers cleared shelves in Washington-area stores, buying batteries, water and food.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged motorists to stay off roads, starting on Friday.
“Anyone who has the illusion you’re going to be taking big trips over the weekend, get that out of your mind,” de Blasio said at a news conference.
Speaking at a news conference surrounded by dump trucks being loaded with salt, Bowser said the U.S. capital’s public schools would be shut on Friday and local government offices would close at noon.
Bowser apologized for not having the city ready for about 2 inches (5 cm) of snow that snarled Wednesday’s rush hour traffic.
The National Weather Service put Washington D.C. and Baltimore under blizzard warnings from 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) Friday through Sunday morning.
It forecast up to 2 feet (61 cm) of snow in Washington, and as much as 30 inches (75 cm) in western suburbs, with winds gusting to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).
“Visibility will be reduced to near zero in whiteout conditions,” it said.
In North Carolina, two women died late on Wednesday from car accidents on slippery roadways, the governor’s office said.
The U.S. government’s personnel office did not respond to a query about whether federal offices in the Washington area would close on Friday.
The storm was expected to deliver a slightly weaker wallop to the New York and Long Island areas with blizzard conditions from Saturday morning through Sunday.
New York canceled its Winter Jam in Central Park, set for Saturday, even after the snow-starved city had spent days making artificial snow for the winter sports festival.
Governors in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania joined Bowser in declaring states of emergency, and the governor of West Virginia declared a state of preparedness. –Reuters