Snow storm leaves Washington battered, moves north (Lead)

December 20th, 2009 - 9:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, Dec 20 (IANS) A major snow storm that buried the national capital Washington and surrounding area under a thick white blanket was expected to dump up to 12 inches in the New York area as it started moving north Sunday.

Authorities were forced to suspend public transportation in the capital, declare a state of emergency and plead with residents to stay home as the powerful Nor’easter blanketed the eastern United States, leaving thousands stranded at airports and bus terminals.

Record snowfall totals were reported Saturday at Washington Dulles international and Reagan National airports. Accumulation at Dulles reached 13 inches, breaking the old record of 10.6 inches set December 12, 1964.

A total of 13.3 inches was reported at Reagan, where the old record was 11.5 inches set December 17, 1932.

All flights to Dulles were cancelled until 6 a.m. Sunday and at Reagan until 10 a.m. Sunday.

At the snowstorm’s peak Saturday afternoon, flakes fell at the rate of two inches an hour. Some areas, particularly in Southern Maryland, experienced wind gusts up to 64 kmph.

Bethesda, Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington recorded a whopping 23 inches of snow; and Medford, New Jersey, 24 inches of snow fell by early Sunday.

Winter storm warnings and advisories remained in effect farther south and East Coast travellers were again warned to expect treacherous roads Sunday and face flight delays and cancellations.

The National Weather Service forecast blizzard conditions with winds gusting at 95 km an hour and up to 18 inches of snow along the New England coast and issued blizzard warnings for parts of that area.

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine authorised up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to assist in the state’s response to the storm, which dumped up to 18 inches of snow in parts of the region by Saturday evening.

As snow continued to fall in the mid-Atlantic states, people in western North Carolina were digging out Sunday from the powerful storm. More than 50,000 were without power in Asheville’s Buncombe county after more than a foot of snow fell in the mountains.

Washington Sunday awoke to a bright Sunny day as the relentless fury of the great storm faded into flurries before wearing out by midnight. Yet, authorities said it will be days before things return to normal.

Federal and local officials expect to decide during early conference calls Monday whether to open government offices or grant liberal leave to employees.

The storm began in the Gulf of Mexico and continued northeast along a track meteorologists call an “Interstate-95 special,” growing most intense over the Washington area.

New York and Boston also had heavy snowfall, but by the time the storm reached that area, its heart was over the ocean so those cities received less snow than the mid-Atlantic region.

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