A HUGE SNOW storm is due to hit the east coast of the United States today, as a state of emergency is declared in three states.
Washington DC and the surrounding area could see up to two feet (61 centimetres) of snow accumulate in a short time from today until tomorrow, coupled with fierce winds and blinding squalls, weather experts said.
With authorities warning the storm could bury the US capital under more snow than it has seen in nearly a century, officials announced they would take the unusual step of closing down the city’s rail and bus system from tonight until Monday morning.
The Metro system – the second busiest in the United States after New York – serves about 700,000 customers a day in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
Heavy snow was expected across at least 15 states, with icy rain and coastal flooding in other areas, according to the Weather Channel.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a blizzard warning for Washington, and said New York could catch the tail end of the storm as the weekend progresses.
“Heavy snow and blowing snow will cause dangerous conditions and will be a threat to life and property,” the NWS warned.
NWS director Louis Uccellini said the system had “the potential of being an extremely dangerous storm that could affect over 50 million people”.
“We are talking about a potentially paralysing storm that is already setting up,” he told reporters.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a state of emergency and called off school for today.
“I’ve lived in DC most of my life and I don’t know if I’ve lived through a forecast like this. It’s an extremely large storm,” she said.
States of emergency were also declared in neighbouring Virginia and Maryland.
‘Warm and toasty’
The US capital was already struggling after snow flurries left traffic at a standstill on Wednesday, even snaring President Barack Obama’s motorcade, which spent more than an hour navigating the icy streets from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House – normally a trip of 20-25 minutes.
Asked how Obama planned to weather the big storm, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said yesterday: “My guess is he will stay warm and toasty inside the White House.”
If the blizzard dumps as much snow in Washington as forecast, it could surpass a record set in 1922 by a storm that dumped 28 inches over three days and killed 100 people after a roof collapsed at a theatre.
Since Wednesday, residents have been flocking to supermarkets to stock up on food and snow shovels.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, told reporters that his city was preparing for up to 12 inches of snow, as he issued a hazardous travel advisory for the weekend.
“We’re bracing for the first big storm of the winter. I want to let my fellow New Yorkers know we’re prepared, the agencies here are ready for what’s coming up ahead,” de Blasio said.
He said more than 575 salt spreaders would be pre-deployed this evening and that the city had 303,000 tons of rock salt on hand.