Snowstorm hits US east coast


A severe snow storm has hit the east coast of the US with at least five deaths blamed on the weather and causing disruption to public transport and air travel.

Up to 22 inches of snow was expected in the Baltimore-Washington area, more than any snowstorm to hit the region since February 2003, as the storm system moved north into New York and New England.

With snow falling at a rate of two inches (5 cm) an hour, most flights were cancelled at the three major Washington-area airports.

Delays and cancellations also hit Philadelphia's international airport. The storm could take a big bite out of retail sales on one of the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency and asked District of Columbia residents to keep off the streets as the US capital faced what one TV station dubbed “The Shopper stopper storm”. 

Washington closed above-ground operations of its Metrorail subway and stopped all bus services by early afternoon because streets were rapidly becoming impassable.

The storm was expected to taper off to snow showers later today morning, with accumulations of about a foot in the city's five boroughs, and up to two feet on eastern Long Island, where blizzard conditions prevailed. 

A severe storm warning remains in effect until late this morning.