'Snowmageddon' paralyzes US east coast, two dead
The monster storm, dubbed "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmageddon," stretched hundreds of miles from eastern Indiana across into Pennsylvania and then down through Maryland as far south as North Carolina.
With winds gusting at almost 60 miles (90 kilometers) an hour, meteorologists said they had recorded snowfall as high as 38 inches (96 centimeters) in parts of northern Maryland -- a historic high for the state.
The heavy, sticky snow toppled trees and sagged power lines, leaving more than 350,000 people without electricity in Maryland and neighboring Virginia, officials said.
"Snowmageddon here in DC," President Barack Obama told Democrats in a speech, only a year after chiding the capital city for its cautious response to small snowfalls.
Forecasters warned residents to hunker down, with no let-up in the weather for most of the day, and said chilly temperatures on Sunday would mean the wet snow would swiftly turn icy. Related article: Monster US storm boon for forecasters: expert
"It's hanging on, and hanging on," Paul Kochin, an expert in northeast weather systems with the National Weather Service, told AFP.
"Officially this won't break records in DC, but unofficially, you bet it will. It's very rare to have two such big storms in one season," he said, after the capital region was already crippled by a smaller storm in December.
Maryland, followed by neighboring Virginia, were bearing the brunt of the storm and seeing the highest snowfalls, he said.
"It's pretty rough out there," agreed Ed McDonough from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
"The roads are very difficult to travel... and we are seeing a spike in power outages. We are telling local residents to stay home, enjoy the time with their families and let the highway crews do their work."
Emergency crews struggled to repair the power outages hampered by the miserable weather.
"We have a lot of scattered outages and the road conditions are not really working with us," admitted Pepco spokesman Andre Francis, pleading for patience as some customers were told the blackouts could last days.
Some 200 National Guardsmen had been deployed across Maryland, while in Virginia police confirmed that a father and son were killed Friday when they stopped to help a stranded car.
Police in the state had responded to some 3,167 calls for help, more than two-thirds of which were due to car accidents or stranded vehicles.
Three state troopers were also injured in storm-related accidents. Virginia was also opening up public shelters in local schools for those without power.
In the normally bustling capital, sight-seers were walking thigh-deep in the snow along the famous national mall. Related article: Washington DC, the world's newest ski resort
Alix Lawe, who works with the US Air Force, was out for a run in the snow, and told AFP: "It's so fun. I'm from Florida, I've never seen so much snow."
Snow plows were out trying to keep emergency routes and main highways clear, but most officials said it would take days to reach the smaller streets, and warned of a difficult Monday morning commute.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has put the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area under a rare 24-hour blizzard warning until 10:00 pm Saturday (0300 GMT Sunday).
All flights out of the capital's Reagan National airport were cancelled, along with most flights out of Dulles International Airport in Virginia, while there was a limited service at Baltimore.
A hangar roof collapsed at the Dulles Jet Center early Saturday according to Rob Yengling, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman. Five people spending the night inside to shelter from the storm escaped without injuries.
The capital's subway system has shut down 40 above ground stations, meaning transport links between Washington and its heavily-populated suburbs were snapped with most major roads impassable, knocking out bus services.
But some people were determined to enjoy the winter's second biggest storm in the area, with 5,000 turning out for a mass snowball fight in central Washington.
Washington shuts down, buried in record snowfall
Flights are grounded and power outages are widespread as the capital slumbers under more than 32 inches of snow.By Peter Nicholas
7:12 PM PST, February 6, 2010
Reporting from Alexandria, Va.
The storm proved a major disruption, with above-ground subways and buses in the Washington area shutting down and stores closing en masse in the face of a storm destined to go down as one of the major snowfalls in the area's history.
As of late afternoon, a total of 32.4 inches was recorded at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, according to the National Weather Service. That two-day accumulation topped the previous record, compiled during the blizzard of January 1996, the weather service said.
Hundreds of thousands of homes in Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere lost power. Trees toppled under the snow's weight, blocking roads. Snowplows worked overtime to keep the streets cleared. Flights were canceled at Washington's major airports.
Not even the presidential motorcade was able to navigate the city's streets unscathed. An ambulance hit an SUV in the motorcade before President Obama's entourage left the White House on Saturday morning to address the Democratic National Committee at a hotel several blocks away. No one was hurt.
At the event, Obama asked after the whereabouts of Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-San Jose). "He's on his way," Obama said. "He's still shoveling."
While the president normally portrays himself as a hardy Chicagoan accustomed to bad weather, even he seemed impressed by the storm's ferocity. He called the blizzard "Snowmaggedon."
The storm created some otherworldly moments in the Washington area, with people moving up and down side streets on cross-country skis and solitary pedestrians trudging along the middle of major roads, clutching groceries purchased in the few convenience stores that remained open.
An Alexandria, Va., woman had wrapped her small dog in a sweater and taken him -- reluctantly -- for a walk. After disappearing in a foot of snow, the dog "gave me a look like, 'Are you crazy?' " she said.
Rather than stay inside and clean her house, Laurie Thompson, 55, of Alexandria chose to put on her hiking boots and go out for a walk, camera in hand. She described the storm as at once "horrible" and "beautiful."
A few blocks away, a tree weighted down with snow had snapped at the base and fallen across a side street, creating an impassable barrier.
The blizzard followed a storm Dec. 19 that dropped more than 16 inches on the area. Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870, according to the weather service.
Assessing the damage Saturday, some residents seemed stunned.
In Silver Spring, Md., the sheer volume of wet, heavy snow ripped a metal awning attached to Dan Steinberg's colonial-style home. "This is crazy," he said.
In the nation's capital, impassable sidewalks along 16th Street Northwest, a vital north-south artery, forced pedestrians into the middle of the street. Snowplows struggled. Snowboarders and skiers traveled down a hill in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Some of the brave few who did venture outdoors in the nation's capital were met with disappointment at one local Starbucks: A sign said the shop would remain closed until further notice.
Mark Silva in Chicago and Andrew Zajac and James Oliphant in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.
I feel like the Hebrews in Goshen during the Ten Plagues: as a matter of fact, there IS a Goshen here, - Exit 124 on 17W- : and Goshen WAS spared ( I am in this area right now).Will DEADLY SNOW AND FREEZING WIND turn out to be another one of the Ten Plagues? Hundreds of thousands of people without power in this weather is no joking matter. How ironic, in the midst of "GLOBAL WARMING" that the pope ( and Obama) so enthusiastically endorsed. And Obama WOULD deserve a plague all his own, considering he is the front man for Rome.
The Hudson and Delaware valleys were spared the "Snowmageddon" that buried Washington and a swath of the East Coast Saturday and possibly broke decades-old records.
In Maryland, 150,000 people were reported without power, and the governors of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware declared a state of emergency and put the National Guard on alert.
for an update.