Blizzard brings much of US East Coast to a standstill

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Harrison Feind of Boulder, Colo., takes a selfie with a snowman in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. A blizzard with hurricane-force winds brought much of the East Coast to a standstill Saturday, dumping as much as 3 feet of snow, stranding tens of thousands of travelers and shutting down the nation’s capital and its largest city. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A blizzard with hurricane-force winds brought much of the U.S. East Coast to a standstill Saturday, dumping as much as 3 feet (90 centimeters) of snow, stranding tens of thousands of travelers and shutting down Washington and New York City.

After days of weather warnings, most of the 80 million people in the storm’s path heeded requests to stay home and off the roads, which were largely deserted. Yet at least 18 deaths were blamed on the weather, resulting from car crashes, shoveling and hypothermia. And more snow was to come, with dangerous conditions expected to persist until early Sunday, forecasters warned.

“This is going to be one of those generational events, where your parents talk about how bad it was,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said from Tallahassee, Florida, which also got some flakes.

The system was mammoth, dropping snow from the Gulf Coast to the northeastern New England states. By afternoon, areas near Washington had surpassed 30 inches (75 centimeters), according to the ‘s running totals. The heaviest unofficial report was in a rural area of West Virginia, not far from Harper’s Ferry, with 40 inches (100 centimeters).

In addition to snow and wind, the National Weather Service predicted up to half an inch (1.25 centimeters) of ice for the Carolinas and potentially serious coastal flooding for the mid-Atlantic region.

Airlines canceled nearly 7,000 weekend flights and started to cut Monday service. The bulk of Saturday’s 4,459 cancelations were at airports in the New York City and Washington metro areas, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Another 2,467 flights were canceled for Sunday, and the count keeps rising.

As the storm picked up, forecasters increased their snow predictions for New York and points north. The new estimates were for heavy snow nearly all the way to Boston, forecaster Patrick Burke said from the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“This is kind of a top 10 snowstorm,” said weather service winter storm expert Paul Kocin, who co-wrote a two-volume textbook on blizzards. And for New York and Washington this looks like top 5, he said. “It’s a big one.”

In New York, three people died while shoveling snow in Queens and Staten Island. The normally bustling streets around Rockefeller Center, Penn Station and other landmarks were mostly empty. Those who did venture out walked down the middle of snow-covered streets to avoid even deeper drifts on the sidewalks.

With Broadway shows dark, thin crowds shuffled through a different kind of Great White Way in Times Square.

As recently as Friday night, New York officials had expected the storm to top out at 18 inches (45 centimeters). But that prediction jumped to 25 inches (62.5 centimeters) Saturday morning and to 28 inches (71 centimeters) by evening. Nearly 20 inches (50 centimeters) had fallen on Central Park by late afternoon, with more coming down hard.

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