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  Eastern US braces for monster storm

Eastern US braces for monster storm

Published : Jan 23, 2016, 12:53 am IST
Updated : Jan 23, 2016, 12:53 am IST

New York fire department fire-fighters stock up on salt before New York City mayor Bill De Blasio speaks about the city's preparedness for an impending snowstorm at the Spring Street salt shed in New York on Friday. — AFP

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New York fire department fire-fighters stock up on salt before New York City mayor Bill De Blasio speaks about the city's preparedness for an impending snowstorm at the Spring Street salt shed in New York on Friday. — AFP

The eastern US braced Friday for a monstrous blizzard that has prompted thousands of flight cancellations and the looming shutdown of Washington’s public transportation system.

The US capital and the surrounding area could see up to two feet of snow accumulate in a short time from Friday to Saturday, coupled with fierce winds and blinding squalls, weather experts said.

The federal government in Washington is closing at noon Friday because of the storm. As several states made frantic preparations, as far south as Kentucky the governor said he too was shutting down government offices on Friday. So far more than 4,500 flights originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday within, into or out of the US have been cancelled, according to the flight monitor flightaware.com.

Tens of millions of people could be affected by snow, and millions more by ice and other dangerous conditions, the National Weather Service said.

“You put all the ingredients together, you can get a storm like this and it’s happening in real time,” NWS director Louis Uccellini 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 Friday night until Monday morning.

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

It is likely the longest closing in the system’s 40-plus year history, The Washington Post reported. Rail carrier Amtrak said it will be running fewer trains over the weekend between Virginia and Boston. Heavy snow was expected across at least 15 states, with icy rain and coastal flooding in other areas, according to the Weather Channel.

The 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 warned.

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

Mr Uccellini said the system had “the potential of being an extremely dangerous storm that could affect over 50 million people.”

Snow flurries Wednesday left Washington traffic at a standstill, even snaring President Barack Obama’s motorcade, which spent more than an hour navigating the icy streets from Andrews Air Force Base to the White House — normally a trip of 20-25 minutes.

Location: United States, Washington