The US north east is bracing itself of a snow storm, the size of which not have been equalled for a century and which officials say has “life-and-death implications”.
The National Weather Service has said the storm had the potential to bring a large swath of the region to halt, and dump as much as 30 inches of snow in places such as Washington DC and Baltimore. Philadelphia and New York are also in the path of the blizzard, which has been named Jonas by the US media.
On Friday afternoon, the first of many flakes began to fall in the nation’s capital, which is expected to be buried by several feet of snow, and where the blizzard's power could equal that of the 1922 Knickerbocker storm, which inundated the city under 28 inches. In Chicago, a United Airlines plane slipped off the runway at O'Hare Airport.
The Weather Channel said more than 85m people in at least 20 states were covered by either a blizzard warning, winter storm watch, winter storm warning, winter weather advisory, or freezing rain advisory.
On Friday morning, officials in Washington issued a blunt warning to residents, telling them to get off the roads, go home and stay safe. They had already seen the snow strike North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.
“I want to be very clear with everybody. This is a major storm,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said, according to the Associated Press.
“This has life-and-death implications and all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way.”
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the storm could bring Washington one of its biggest snowfalls on record, eclipsing the so-called “Snowmageddon” storm of 2010 that dropped 17.8 inches.
Experts have said the storm to hit the capital between 1pm and 3pm on Friday and last until late on Saturday, bringing up to 2 to 2.5 feet over 36 hours and 40mph winds.
Earlier on Friday in the Washington area, home to about six million people, residents scrambled to prepare, picking stores clean of bottled water, food and other supplies.
“I have nine cases of wine, half and half and coffee, firewood and all my devices are charged. All I need now is a wing and a prayer,” said Liz Scherer, 54, who works out of her home in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Federal employees in the Washington area were told their offices would close at noon on Friday to allow them to get home before the snow began piling up.
City officials said everyone except emergency workers should stay off the streets.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which includes the second-busiest US subway system, took the rare step of suspending operations from late on Friday until Sunday.
Airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights for Friday and Saturday, most of them at airports in North Carolina and Washington, according to FlightAware.com. Philadelphia’s airport said it would cancel all flights scheduled for Saturday. A United Airlines plane slipped off the runwayReuse content