US East Coast prepares for blizzard

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some of the winter weather advisories currently in effect

Although the Winter Solstice is not for another couple of days, a major blizzard, potentially the most severe in years, is currently affecting the East Coast of the United States. What began as a low pressure system off the coast of Florida that resulted in widespread flash flooding is now on its way to the Northeast, where it is expected to dump over a foot of snow in many areas, such as in Washington, D.C., which was forecast to pick up as much as twenty inches of snow.

Despite the traveling frenzy of the ongoing holiday season, the impending inclement weather has prompted various regional airlines to already announce that many of their flights to and from various East Coast destinations in the storm's path — such as in the New York metropolitan area, where over ten inches of snow are predicted to fall — will likely be grounded, or severely delayed at best.

"It's going to be very challenging for people who weren't able to get out today to rebook on flights this week," said spokeswoman Tara Hamilton of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected in some way by this storm?

As a result, blizzard watches and winter storm warnings have been issued all over the Northeast, from North Carolina to central and eastern New England. The National Weather Service warns that in some areas, "falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely. This will in some areas lead to whiteout conditions[,] making travel extremely dangerous."

Some areas even declared snow emergencies, and strongly encouraged people not to travel and to remain at home. In Virginia, the National Guard rescued several hundred motorists who became stranded due to the heavy snows. A twenty-mile traffic backup on Interstate 81 miles was also reported. According to Bob Spieldenner, a spokesman for the state's Department of Emergency Management, around a hundred people were moved to shelters.

"Some folks have decided to stay in vehicles, others have been taken to shelters. We're definitely trying to keep people off the roads," Spieldenner said.

The inclement weather also cut off power to many people in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia; the MSNBC news agency reported that a total of 136,000 businesses and homes were without power in those three states.

In more northern regions, unusual levels of uncertainty in the cyclone's eventual track are making it difficult for forecasters to determine the exact conditions over the next couple days.

The snow is expected to taper off by Sunday evening for most locations, but another storm is possible next week.