A massive blizzard is charging toward the East Coast on Friday, one that the National Weather Service said could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region.
With more than two feet of snow predicted for Washington alone, schools were closed, flights were canceled and a state of emergency was declared across a vast area.
The National Weather Service says the nation’s capital could get as much as 29 inches of snow by the time the storm ends Sunday, possibly breaking the record set during the January 1922 Knickerbocker blizzard, when 28 inches covered DC.
That blizzard was named after the tragedy at the Crandall’s Knickerbocker Theater where 98 people were killed and 133 injured when the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.
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A winter storm of historic proportions is headed towards Washington, DC on Friday. Winter Storm Jonas is expected to bring some two feet of snow to the nation’s capitol. Above, snow falls in Roanoke, Virginia Friday morning
Snow up to two feet, was forecast for areas west and southwest of the Washington, with Washington possibly getting 15 to 20 inches, Philadelphia could see 12 to 18, and New York City and Long Island could see eight to 10
The storm will hit Washington, DC Friday afternoon, and continue to move east towards the Philadelphia and New York overnight
Two customers look at the heavily depleted bread section of a grocery store, as shoppers prepare for an approaching snowstorm in Alexandria, Virginia on Thursday
The blizzard, Winter Storm Jonas, is expected to dump about two feet of snow in the Washington DC region this coming weekend. Above, a shopper in Alexandria, Virginia on Thursday
A customer waits in a line to purchase shovels and ice melt, as shoppers prepare for the approaching snowstorm in Washington, DC
As of Friday morning, some 85million people were under blizzard or winter storm warnings in the eastern quarter of the U.S.
NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin compared this weekend’s storm to ‘Snowmageddon,’ the first of two storms that ‘wiped out’ Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow, but said the weekend timing and the days of warning could help limit deaths and damage.
WINTER STORM JONAS CAUSES AIRLINE TRAVEL CHAOS
Total delays today: 3,479
Total delays within, into, or out of the United States today: 389
Total cancellations today: 2,841
Total cancellations within, into, or out of the United States today: 2,518
Total delays tomorrow: 0
Total delays within, into, or out of the United States tomorrow: 0
Total cancellations tomorrow: 2,608
Total cancellations within, into, or out of the United States tomorrow: 2,523
Total delays Sunday: 0
Total delays within, into, or out of the United States Sunday: 0
Total cancellations Sunday: 8
Total cancellations within, into, or out of the United States Sunday: 4
‘It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,’ Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service, said at its Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
As of Friday morning, some 85 million people across the Eastern U.S. were under blizzard of winter storm warnings.
He said all the elements have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm.
The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1billion in damage and paralyze the eastern third of the nation, Uccellini said.
Snowfall as heavy as one to three inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more, said Kocin.
In addition to Washington, 12 to 18 inches of snow was predicted for Philadelphia and eight to 12 inches was expected in New York.
A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and parts of other states, and road crews were out in force.
Snow is already falling in the southeast, where Little Rock, Arkansas has already been covered in more than six inches of snow overnight.
The winter storm shut down schools and state government offices in central Arkansas on Friday as the snow continues to fall.
The state’s largest utility, Entergy Arkansas, says about 12,500 homes and businesses are without power Friday morning, primarily in the eastern half of the state.
Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm’s path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York.
Schools and government offices were closed, thousands of flights were canceled and food and supplies flew off store shelves as millions of people stocked up. College basketball games and concerts in the region were postponed.
Washington looks like the bull’s-eye of the blizzard, and New York City is just inside the slow-moving storm’s sharp northern edge, which means it is likely to see heavy accumulations, he said.
At a press conference Friday morning, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said that the ‘major storm’ about to hit the city ‘has life and death implications, and all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way’.
Her administration officials advised citizens to be home by 3pm on Friday, and expect to stay there throughout the storm. The first snowflakes are expected to hit the city between 1pm and 3pm.
The capital’s subway system said it will shut down entirely late Friday night and remain closed through Sunday for the sake of employee and rider safety. Underground stations usually stay open during major snowstorms.
Larry White with the city of Roanoke shovels snow from the front steps of City Hall the morning of January 22
A snow plow truck makes its way down Electric Road in southwest Roanoke County past Tanglewood Mall on Friday, January 22
Cars drive in the snow along Electric Road in southwest Roanoke County on Friday, January 22
Tanglewood Mall and the parking area in southwest Roanoke County is covered in snow the morning of Friday, January 22
Snow is already falling in parts of the southeast, and is expected to reach Washington, DC later today
The federal government is closing offices in Washington, DC at noon on Friday to let workers get home before the storm sets in
In addition to Washington, 12 to 18 inches of snow was predicted for Philadelphia and eight to 12 inches was expected in New York
Snow is expected to start snowing in the Big Apple early Saturday morning, and experts say the city could see a big accumulation
An estimated 29 inches of snow is expected to fall in Washington, DC – which could break the record 28 inches set in the Knickerbocker blizzard of 1922
TIME TO STOCK UP
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those under winter storm warnings should be sure to have the following stocked up in their homes in case leaving the house becomes impossible.
Non-electric can opener
Baby food and formula, if necessary
Prescription drugs and other medicine
Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
Flashlight and extra batteries
Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
Warm clothes and blankets
(To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)
However, taxi cabs are being encouraged to stay in service throughout the storm, thanks to a $15 dollar fee that has been added to rides in the weather.
District of Columbia Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters says the ‘snow emergency fare’ will go into effect at 9:30am Friday.
Waters says the $15 will be in addition to the regular metered charge. The taxi commission says the fee was added to encourage some taxis to remain in service during the storm. The fare period will remain in effect for 12 hours unless it is extended.
According to Washington municipal regulations, a snow emergency fare period can be put into place when there are hazardous driving conditions, such as significant accumulation of snow on the streets. Waters says possible fare extensions will be reviewed Friday and determined by weather conditions.
Federal government offices in Washington, DC are also set to close at noon on Friday, so that workers may get home before the storm sets in, according to the Office of Personnel Management
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would hunker down at the White House, and is confident that local officials will get it right.
Uccellini said residents should expect high winds, a storm surge and inland flooding from Delaware to New York. Other severe but non-snowy weather is likely from Texas to Florida as the storm system chugs across the Gulf Coast, gaining moisture.
On Thursday, icy conditions caused accidents that killed two drivers in North Carolina and one in Tennessee. A truck with a snowplow killed a pedestrian in Maryland.
Train service could be disrupted as well, by frozen switches, the loss of third-rail electric power or trees falling on overhead wires. About 1,000 track workers will be deployed to keep New York City’s subway system moving and 79 trains will have ‘scraper shoes’ to reduce the icing on the rails.
The streets in Washington, DC were empty Friday morning as the city hunkers down for what is expected to be a record-breaking winter storm
The city could be hit with as much as 30 inches of snow this weekend, experts have forecasted. Above, Pennsylvania Avenue is virtually empty Friday morning
A pile of shoveled snow stands on the east side of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, and even more snow is expected to come on Friday
A man walks along Pennsylvania Avenue past Secret Service officers and the White House after the city received a light snow storm overnight on January 21
A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., as the East Coast is braced for one of the most brutal snowstorms in a century. Pictured: People wait in line at a grocery store in D.C. amid the pre-storm bread-rush
Above, weather temperatures across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions early Friday morning, ahead of the worst of Winter Storm Jonas
All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. The airports included vary by airline but include some cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia all the way up the coast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. American Airlines alone has issued waivers for 42 airports.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights Friday to, from or within the U.S. as a major snowstorm bears down on the East Coast.
Another 2,400 were canceled for Saturday. The bulk of those Friday cancellations were in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Saturday’s cancellations center around Philadelphia, Washington and – to a lesser extent – New York.
By Sunday afternoon, however, the airlines hope to be back to full schedule to handle the influx of business travelers heading out for the week, one of the busiest travel periods.
The good news for those facing flight cancellations is that Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week.
According to FlightAware, there are a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the U.S. That’s about 5,000 fewer flights – and 400,000 fewer passengers – than on Thursday or Friday.
United Airlines said it is shutting down operations at Washington Dulles airport starting Friday afternoon, and that they hope to resume flights Sunday.
The airline warned that ‘the severe weather conditions will lead to many cancellations and delays through the region ‘including at its major hubs of Dulles and Newark Liberty Airport outside New York City in northern New Jersey.
Southwest and JetBlue will also start cancelling flights Friday, while American Airlines plans to cancel all flights on Saturday in Washington, DC and Philadelphia.
Many airlines are taking preemptive measures in cancelling flights early because they don’t want passengers stranded in the airport or on planes, as has happened past. There are also federal fines associated with mass cancellations and airport operations are usually disrupted when workers find it hard to get to work in severe weather.
Philadelphia International Airport is one of the first airports to preemptively cancel all flights for Saturday, when the blizzard conditions are expected to be in full swing.
Airport spokeswoman Diane Gerace says airlines are being proactive ahead of the expected storm and decided to cancel all flights. She says airlines hope to resume flights Sunday, but travelers should check with their carriers to get detailed information.
The website Flight Aware predicts that 2,000 flights will be cancelled on Friday and another 3,000 on Saturday
Above, one of the memes circulating online, comparing the storm’s name to the boy band The Jonas Brothers
The band Weezer capitalized on the name of the storm, Jonas, by highlighting one of their tracks: ‘My name is Jonas’. Another social media fan used pictures of the Jonas brothers on a mock book cover
On Friday, temperatures in most of the northeastern United States are supposed to get as low as the mid-20s
On Saturday, those temperatures will get even low – as low as just 17 degrees in Washington, DC – as the storm pushes on towards New York City
Sunday will see the storm taper out in the northeast, and mostly clear skies for the night. It’s estimated that Washington, DC will get as cold as 14 degrees at the end of the weekend
At a supermarket in Baltimore, Sharon Brewington stocked her cart with snacks, bread, milk and cold cuts, remembering that in the massive snowstorm of 2010, she and her daughter were stuck at home with nothing but noodles and water.
‘I’m not going to make that mistake again,’ she said.
While some residents and businesses worry about the effect of a large storm making its way across the U.S., at least one industry is loving all the snow: ski resorts.
Many resorts got a late start to the season because of record high temperatures in December. The storm that started to arrive in some states Friday is expected to dump feet of snow in some areas. In West Virginia, up to two feet is forecast.
Joe Stevens of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association says, ‘There is never too much snow on the slopes.’ But he admitted that getting to and from resorts on icy roads could be problematic, as could clearing snow from parking lots packed with visitors.
Still, he says, skiing and snowboarding will be excellent at the state’s four major resorts: Snowshoe Mountain, Canaan Valley, Winterplace and Timberline.
To the north, the usually snowy states of New England, looked on with snow envy. Northern New England may see nary a flake from the snowstorm that’s going to clobber the Middle Atlantic — and that’s a major bummer for snow lovers.
New England snowmobile and cross-country ski trails have exposed stumps and rocks and open water remains on normally frozen lakes and ponds.
It’s depressing,’ said Mike Paquette, trail master for the Vergennes-based Foote of the Mountains Sno-Travelers snowmobile club in Vermont.
Xueyu Zeng, of Towson, Md., sweeps snow from a walkway in Towson, Thursday, January 21, 2016, after a snow fell the night before
Truck driver Mike Jock, of Newark, Delaware, unloads ice-melt in Towson, Maryland on Thursday in anticipation of the weekend snow storm
Christine Perusz loads up on ice-melting chemicals at Barnes Supply Co., on Thursday, January 21, 2016, in Durham, North Carolina