States of emergency declared across US east coast
Washington DC and Baltimore under blizzard warnings as snow storm expected
US president Barack Obama’s motorcade leaves an air force base amid snowfall in Maryland. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Washington DC and Baltimore were under blizzard warnings on Thursday and states of emergency were declared across the east coast of the US as preparations were made for a storm that is expected to bring up to 75cm of snow.
As the first major east coast winter storm began dumping snow on the nation’s capital, residents from North Carolina to New York were told to stay indoors, avoid travel and stock up on food and other necessities.
Shoppers cleared shelves in Washington-area stores, buying batteries, water and food.
Washington mayor Muriel Bowser and New York mayor Bill de Blasio urged motorists to stay off roads, starting on Friday.
“Anyone who has the illusion you’re going to be taking big trips over the weekend, get that out of your mind,” de Blasio said at a news conference.
Speaking at a news conference surrounded by dump trucks being loaded with salt, Bowser said the US capital’s public schools would be shut on Friday and local government offices would close at noon.
The National Weather Service put Washington DC and Baltimore under blizzard warnings from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning.
It forecast up to 61cm of snow in Washington, and as much as 75cm in western suburbs, with winds gusting up to 80 km/h.
“Visibility will be reduced to near zero in whiteout conditions,” it said.
North Carolina deaths
In North Carolina, two women died late on Wednesday from car accidents on slippery roadways, the North Carolina governor’s office said.
The storm was expected to deliver a slightly weaker wallop to the New York and Long Island areas, with blizzard conditions forecast from Saturday morning through Sunday.
New York cancelled its Winter Jam in Central Park, set for Saturday, even after the city had spent days making artificial snow for the winter sports festival.