Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Millions in US brace for monster storm

AFP, WASHINGTON

A NASA handout dated Wednesday shows a potentially crippling winter storm moving through the central US.

Photo: EPA

The eastern US was in a panic on Thursday ahead of what forecasters called a “potentially paralyzing” blizzard, sparking flight cancelations and the looming shutdown of Washington’s public transportation system.

The US capital and the surrounding area was expected see up to 61cm of snow accumulate in a short time from yesterday to today, coupled with fierce winds and blinding squalls, weather experts said.

With authorities warning the storm could bury Washington 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 last night until Monday morning.

The Metro system — the second-busiest in the US after New York — serves about 700,000 customers per day in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

It is likely the longest closing in the system’s 40-plus year history, the Washington Post reported.

Heavy snow was expected across at least 15 states, with icy rain and coastal flooding in other areas, the Weather Channel said.

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 said.

“Travel is expected to be severely limited if not impossible during the height of the storm Friday night and Saturday,” it said.

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 paralyzing storm that is already setting up,” he told reporters.

Ahead of the first snowflakes, American Airlines said it was canceling hundreds of flights, including at Washington’s two airports today.

All flights today are also expected to be canceled in Baltimore and Philadelphia, a spokeswoman said, adding that service would likely resume tomorrow.

United Airlines announced it would be suspending flights at Washington’s Dulles and other mid-Atlantic airports starting yesterday afternoon.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a state of emergency and closed schools yesterday.

“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 neighboring Virginia and Maryland.

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