Snow paralyses US capital

A blizzard battered the Mid-Atlantic region of the United Statestoday, quickly dumping large amounts of snow that piled up on roadways and toppled trees onto apartment buildings and cars.

Officials urged people to huddle at home for the weekend, out of the way of crews trying to keep up with a storm that forecasters said could be the biggest for Washington, D.C., in modern history. A father and son were killed in Virginia when a tractor-trailer struck and killed them after they stopped to help another driver.

A record 75 centimetres or more was predicted for Washington. As of early this morning, 25cm of snow was reported at the White House, while parts of Maryland and West Virginia were buried under more than 50cm.

Blizzard warnings were issued for the District of Columbia, parts of New Jersey and Delaware and some areas west of the Chesapeake Bay.

"Things are fairly manageable, but trees are starting to come down," said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer, whose agency responded to some of the falling trees. No injuries were reported.

Airlines canceled flights, churches called off weekend services and people wondered if they would be stuck at home for several days in a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow.

Authorities blamed the storm for hundreds of accidents. Some area hospitals asked people with four-wheel-drive vehicles to volunteer to pick up doctors and nurses to take them to work.

Across the region, transportation officials deployed thousands of trucks and crews and had hundreds of thousands of tons of salt at the ready. Several states exhausted or expected to exhaust their snow removal budgets.