Two men clear snow from Riverside Plaza in Chicago.
The US capital shut down yesterday ahead of a fierce snowstorm that had blanketed the Midwest, leaving thousands without power and forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
Washington could get slammed by its biggest snowfall in as much as two years, with 6in to 12in (15cm to 30cm) expected after the storm moved eastward into the mid-Atlantic states, the National Weather Service said.
The government, already hit by $85bn in overall budget cuts that took effect last Friday, ordered 375,000 federal workers in the Washington area to stay home.
Major school districts in the area also shut down ahead of the storm, which is packing winds of up to 35mph (56kph).
In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, heavy snow began overnight at Charlottesville, Virginia, and left more than 1ft (30cm) on the ground by morning. Schools were closed and roads were mostly empty.
“We’ve had about four snow warnings this season, but this is the first time it’s actually happened,” said Lucy Rucker, 70, a retiree whose power was knocked out by morning.
“We’ll be spending the day indoors, I guess,” she said.
Airlines cancelled about 1,500 flights, including about 700 at Washington’s Reagan, Dulles and Baltimore/Washington airports. About 1,700 flights were called off on Tuesday as the storm moved across the north central US.
The heavy, wet snow was expected to bring down power lines and tree limbs. About 54,000 Dominion Resources Inc customers were without power in Virginia, and American Electric Power Co Inc and FirstEnergy Corp reported 5,000 customers in West Virginia were in the dark.
The National Weather Service forecast heavy rains on the Atlantic coast. The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management said it was monitoring a coastal storm expected to bring heavy rain, high winds, snow and coastal flooding through tomorrow morning.
The weather service said the system dumped 9in of snow on Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport by the time the winter storm warning had expired at midnight Tuesday night, making it the city’s biggest snowstorm in two years.
During the Tuesday evening rush hour, wind-whipped snow reduced visibility to less than half a mile and caused delays on roads.
Monique Bond, a spokeswoman with the Illinois State Patrol, said bad weather may have contributed to a deadly crash on Interstate Highway 70 in Marshall, Illinois, near the Indiana border.
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