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Winter storm pummels US east coast as residents urged to stay home

1From the deep south to New York City, a powerful, far-reaching winter stormspread snow, ice, accidents, injuries and deaths on Saturday, as it continued a path north-east.
Since Friday, an estimated 50 million people in 2o states have heard winter weather warnings, watches or advisories. Early Saturday morning, the blizzard moved into some of the nation’s largest cities, with gale-force winds spewing snow into Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City.
“It seems the weather forecasters got it right this time,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said at a morning press conference. “There is a blizzard.”
Like officials all around the east coast, he warned people to stay off the roads: “I don’t care how superb a driver, how big a four-wheel drive vehicle you have, the roads are barely passable.”
“The roads are technically open,” he added. “But if you really do not need to leave your house, I can’t stress enough you should not leave your house.”
Cuomo said he was particularly concerned about flooding conditions – “what I consider the worst of Mother Nature’s wrath” – in New York City and along Long Island.
So far, nine people are believed to have died in connection with the storm, and hundreds of car accidents and disabled vehicles were reported in state after state.
By Friday afternoon, Nashville, Tennessee police estimated that 200 car accidents had occurred, the Tennessean reported. Virginia state police on Saturday morning told CBS News that nearly 1,000 storm-related accidents were reported.
The national weather service said it was too soon to tell whether the snowfall will break records around Washington DC and Baltimore, but it certainly threatens to. “Either way, we’re looking at a significant event,” NWS meteorologist Frank Pereira said.
The full force of the storm could dump enough snow on Washington to eclipse the 17.8in of a massive storm that struck in 2010, and could rival the “Knickerbocker” storm of 1922, when a record 28in fell.
“It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service. The snowfall, expected to continue into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1bn in damage and could rank in the top 10 to ever hit the region.
Along the eastern seaboard, panicking customers cleared grocery store shelves Friday.

A van drives through a flooded street as ice and snow prevent drainage Saturday in Atlantic City, NJ. Photograph: Mel Evans/AP
Most of those killed since the storm began earlier in the weekend died in traffic accidents. One man died in Kentucky after his car collided with a salt truck; two people died in Tennessee and Virginia after their cars slid off roadways; and four people, including two children, were killed in accidents in North Carolina.
The storm also brought power outages in the region. About 40,000 customers in New Jersey had no power by Saturday morning, and another 8,000 in Virginia were without power.
Up to 19in of snow could fall before the day is out, and by Saturday morning, Central Park already had 6in of snow on the ground. The more unsettling forecast for New York and New Jersey, however, predicted coastal flooding in some areas that are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, particularly along the Long Island coastline and Jersey shore.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie also told residents to stay indoors. “The most urgent need for our residents is to stay inside … We’re getting two to three inches of snow an hour at this point.”
The national airport in Washington DC recorded 14in of snowfall by early Saturday morning, with as much as 24in expected in total by the storm’s end Sunday. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency there, and made the rare decision to shut down all public transport.
In Baltimore, Maryland, the national guard was called on to city streets, where officers waited out the storm parked in the middle of intersections in armored vehicles.
From Friday to Sunday, airlines have canceled more than 7,600 flights. Airports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and Washington DC all but shut down operations, with 90% of flights into and out of New York’s busy LaGuardia airport canceled. Every flight into or out of of Atlantic City, New Jersey was canceled. Almost 90% of flights from Baltimore were canceled.
The blizzard caused travel chaos as far away as the UK, where more than 45 flights to and from the US were cancelled.
Alexandria, Virginia had a foot of snow by midnight. As far south as Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, local media outlets have reported icy conditionsweighing down trees and making roads slick. States in the south-east saw the bulk of airline cancellations on Friday.
Parts of Nashville, Tennessee saw 9in of snow and heard thunder overnight. That was almost triple what was predicted, and made the storm the 13th largest in Nashville’s history.
By Sunday afternoon, however, the airlines hope to be back to a full schedule to handle the typical influx of business travellers heading out to start a week on the road. Overall, the airlines have canceled about 15% of their scheduled flights in the US for Friday and Saturday.
One bit of good news: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week. There are a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the US, according to FlightAware. That’s about 5,000 fewer flights and 400,000 fewer passengers than on Thursday or Friday.