(SOURCE) With long lead time from forecasters and stern warnings from authorities, tens of millions of residents from northern Georgia to New Jersey shuttered themselves inside to wait out a mammoth storm that made travel treacherous and could dump 2 feet or more of snow in some areas.
Snow started falling Friday, but the worst was still yet to come, with strong winds and heavy snow expected to produce “life-threatening blizzard conditions” throughout the day Saturday, according to the National Weather Service’s website. Forecasters also predicted up to a half-inch of ice accumulation in the Carolinas, and potentially serious coastal flooding in the mid-Atlantic.
Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Friday night in New Jersey as the blizzard threatened to dump up to 2 feet of snow in his state. He had been on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.
In Kentucky, motorists were stranded along Interstate 75 south of Lexington early Saturday, and state police said on Twitter that its crews, emergency workers and the National Guard were making their way to cars with water, fuel, and snacks, and attempting to move cars one at a time. Police said no further traffic was being allowed on the road and cars were being diverted, but did not give more specifics or immediately answer phone calls and emails seeking comment.
It was unclear how many vehicles were stranded, but photos from local media outlets showed a long line of trucks and other vehicles lined up along the snowy road
According to the National Weather Service’s website early Saturday, 18 inches of snow already had fallen on Ulysses in eastern Kentucky, while 16 inches fell in Beattyville. Between 14 inches to 15.5 inches had fallen in at other locations across Kentucky, including Frenchburg, Mount Vernon, Eglon and Lancer.
The Weather service said 7 inches of snow had fallen in Washington, D.C. while snowfall amounts in nearby Maryland ranged between 4.5 inches in Baltimore and 13.5 inches in Oakland. In Virginia, Reagan National Airport reported 6.8 inches of snow and Elma had 15 inches.
Other states that recorded snowfall amounts greater than 6 inches included Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Various locations in Georgia and Alabama received between 1 and 3.5 inches of snow.
Even before the snow began to fall Friday afternoon, states of emergency were declared, lawmakers went home, and schools, government offices and transit systems closed early from as far south as Georgia to as far north as New York City.
The ice and snow made travel treacherous, with thousands of accidents and at least nine deaths reported along the region’s roadways. By late Friday, Virginia State Police had reported 989 car crashes statewide since the storm began, and had assisted nearly 800 disabled vehicles, said Ken Schrad, spokesman for the Virginia State Police Joint Information Center.
In Kentucky, Mike Edmonds was stuck at a truck stop Friday as snow piled up around him, not daring to venture his big rig out of the slick parking lot and onto an interstate strewn with wrecked vehicles.
“We’ve got trucks here that literally cannot get out,” Edmonds said by phone. “We’re spinning. It’s not worth even getting out on the road.”
In Washington, the federal government closed its offices at noon, and all mass transit was shutting down through Sunday. President Barack Obama, hunkering down at the White House, was one of many who stayed home.
“Find a safe place and stay there,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser implored residents and visitors alike.
About 7,600 flights were canceled Friday and Saturday — about 15 percent of the airlines’ schedules, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. They hope to be fully back in business by Sunday afternoon.