Travel alerts as blizzards hit US eastern seaboard

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The Independent US

A swath of America's eastern seaboard was last night in the grip of an intensifying winter storm that was dumping heavy snow as it swept northwards.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and severe weather warnings were in place from Georgia to Vermont as temperatures plummeted. Blizzards dropping up to a foot of snow were expected to hit New York and New England, while South Carolina had its first Christmas snowfall since records began in 1887.

Up to 20in of snow were forecast in some areas, including Philadelphia and Boston. It began falling around New York City late yesterday morning, by which time nearly 1,000 flights to and from the region's three major airports had been cancelled, with more expected. Most airlines were waiving fees for passengers changing flights.

Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for yesterday and today, predicting 11in to 16in of snow and strong winds. About 2,400 street cleaners were called in to clear snow as the Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, warned: "Unfortunately, our city is directly in the [storm's] path."

A similar blizzard alert was in place for Boston and Rhode Island, with up to 20in of snow expected. Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency and Amtrak cancelled several of its trains in Virginia.

An American football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings was postponed in Philadelphia because of a blizzard.