Winter Storm on East Coast Cancels Flights

The biggest winter storm in close to 90 years walloped the Middle Atlantic States on Saturday, shutting down Washington, D.C., and burying the region in power failures, flight cancellations and miserable driving conditions.In northern Virginia, two people were killed when they were struck by a truck as they helped a motorist stuck in the snow. On the state’s transportation Twitter page, accidents and disabled vehicles were being reported every few minutes.

Some two feet of snow had already fallen in some areas by midafternoon, and it continued to pile up across northern Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York and southern New Jersey, according to AccuWeather.The heaviest snow was predicted to taper off by the evening in most areas, but howling winds and drifting snow are likely to make travel difficult through the night, the Weather Service said.Below-freezing temperatures were being reported as far south as Richmond, Va., and could stretch to Columbia, S.C., overnight.

Saturday’s storm could be the largest since the 1922 Knickerbocker storm that dropped 28 inches of snow across the mid-Atlantic region and up to 33 inches in some areas around Washington, D.C. The storm got its name from Washington’s Knickerbocker Theater, whose roof collapsed Jan. 28, 1922, from the weight of the snow, killing 98 moviegoers and injuring 133, according to the Washington Weather book Web site.Braving the blizzard to give a speech in Washington before the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, President Barack Obama referred to the storm as snowmageddon.

In a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow, meteorologists had dubbed it the “Snowpocalypse,” and there was no doubt it was big and dangerous: a vast brindled nebula on the satellite pictures that stretched 400 miles along the Chesapeake coast and a bounding monster on the ground that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and caused countless accidents.The combination of wet, heavy snow and winds that gusted as high as 50 mph toppled trees and power lines in Washington and the mid-Atlantic states. Blackouts affected more than 150,000 homes and businesses in Virginia, 150,000 customers in Maryland, 160,000 in Pennsylvania and 90,000 in New Jersey.

As snow fell in enormous sweeping curtains, piling up at a rate of several inches an hour, millions of people heeded warnings to stay home.Some, however, decided to make the most of the wintry scenes and blankets of snow.On the National Mall and throughout Washington, cross-country skiers and children on sleds came out. Hundreds of people turned up for a massive snowball fight in DuPont Circle in Washington. The fight had been promoted on Facebook.But for most people, it was a day of clogged roads and snarled air traffic. Reagan International and Dulles airports near Washington canceled all flights. There were also cancellations at Newark, Philadelphia and Baltimore airports. Philadelphia International said it expected nearly all of its Saturday flights to be canceled, too, saying crews had been working against whiteout conditions to clear runways, the Associated Press reported. Typical delays were being reported for New York’s LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

State governments pleaded for residents to stay off roads except in emergencies. Along the New Jersey shoreline, which was expected to see blizzardlike conditions throughout the day, local governments banned all personal driving except for emergencies, CNN reported.Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware were under states of emergency, with National Guard units on standby to help if needed.

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