Powerful blizzard shuts down US capital
An "extremely dangerous" blizzard expected to dump record amounts of snow pounded the eastern United States Saturday, closing down the US capital and threatening to trap millions indoors for days.
The National Weather Service (NWS) put the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area under a rare 24-hour blizzard warning starting at 10:00 pm Friday (0300 GMT Saturday).
The storm, dubbed "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmageddon" by many locals, stretched from Indiana to Pennsylvania and into parts of New York and North Carolina, creating treacherous travel conditions, shutting Washington area airports and leading several states to declare emergencies.
The storm "will significantly impact most of the region through Saturday," the NWS said.
The inclement weather was deemed responsible for at least two fatalities -- a father and son who were hit by a tractor-trailer on a road in Virginia when they stopped to help a stranded motorist, local media reported.
Forecasters said the Washington region would be hardest-hit, describing overnight Friday to Saturday travel conditions in the area as "hazardous and life-threatening."
They issued a blunt warning: help area emergency workers "by staying off the roads."
The NWS forecast up to 30 inches (76 centimetres) of snow in the capital region, which would shatter Washington's 88-year-old record snowfall of 28 inches, in the "Great Knickerbocker Storm."
That blizzard, which slammed the region in January 1922, got its name from the collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, killing nearly 100 people.
The US capital rarely gets so much snow: according to NWS data, since 1870 the Washington area has had more than a foot (30.5 cm) of snow only 13 times -- including just six weeks ago, when a monster December storm dumped 16 inches (41 cm) on Washington.