It Begins: Massive Blizzard Sweeps Up East Coast

January 22, 2016

Little Rock, Ark., awoke to 6 inches of accumulation.

Just before dawn, rain became sleet became snow outside Nashville. Flakes began to fall in Charlotte, N.C., and the Carolina mountains.

By 8 a.m. ET, the roads in Roanoke, Va., were coated.

It was the start of a predicted 36 hours of snow that will blanket the East Coast, burying the nation’s capital and potentially hobbling travel throughout the region.

The National Weather Service is predicting snowfall between 1 and 2 feet “from eastern Kentucky to New Jersey,” and more than 2 feet across portions of the Mid-Atlantic, including Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. It’s anticipating 12 to 18 inches in Philadelphia and up to a foot in New York City. Freezing rain will lead to perilous road conditions in regions farther south.

Approximately 50 million people are in the path of the storm, The Associated Press reports.

Several states and cities have battened down ahead of the storm. State offices are closed across Tennessee, the AP reports, and Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia have all declared a state of emergency. Some counties in Georgia are also under a state of emergency.

Federal offices in D.C. are sending employees home early on Friday, and the city’s buses and subway system are shutting down for the entire weekend. Baltimore’s MTA has also shut down.

Those traveling by plane might be in for a struggle, too: Flights through Charlotte, Philadelphia and Newark have been canceled, and airlines are braced for trouble in D.C. and New York. You can watch the cancellations roll in on FlightAware.com’s “Misery Map.”

The storm is predicted to be a blizzard, with high winds and whiteout conditions, in addition to bucketloads of snow accumulation. There’s even the possibility of thundersnow. But that’s not all: The storm is also expected to cause a storm surge that could lead to major coastal flooding. The storm surge could be as high as 5 feet, according to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Multiple people have already died in car accidents on icy roads. But Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Paul Kocin tells the AP that he hopes the timing of the storm — hitting over the weekend — as well as the advance warning will help minimize the number of deaths.

Meteorologists and government officials across the East Coast are warning residents to stay home, stay warm and stay off the roads.

But D.C. residents who dare step out into the post-blizzard world can enjoy one activity — legally — for the first time in decades.

Sledding down Capitol Hill had been banned for years. But in the omnibus budget deal that Congress passed last year, the legislators indicated that from now on, they’re going to let it slide.

We’ll keep this post updated with photos and details as the storm rolls in.

You can watch it progress on radar, thanks to our friends at WNYC:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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