Late winter snowstorm shutters US government

A late winter storm blanketed the eastern United States with snow Wednesday, shutting down the federal government and causing aviation officials to cancel as many as 1,000 flights.

The US Office of Personnel Management said federal workers in the Washington DC area and surrounding areas would get the day off from work as the storm, which set snowfall records in Chicago one day earlier, arrived in the nation's capital early Wednesday.

Reports said there have been 1,000 flight cancelations at airports in the region, with more likely over the course of the day.

In Washington, DC and the surrounding areas, virtually all of the schools were closed, as were most local government offices.

The US National Weather Service said in an advisory that the storm's heavy snow and strong wings would last into Friday, as it lumbers eastward after leaving parts of the central US digging out from under as much as two feet (60 centimeters) of snow.

The precipitation was accompanied by high winds, which were predicted to pick up over the course of the day in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

The US Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland gave snowfall totals of about a foot (30 centimeters) of snow in Illinois and Indiana, and nine inches (23 centimeters) in parts of Michigan and Ohio.

The slow-moving storm was expected to continue to dump snow on the east coast through early Friday, as it crawled up the Atlantic coast to an area north of Boston, where several inches of snow are expected.

The storm will have have "a significant impact on southern New England," the National Weather Service statement said.

"This will be a long duration storm," read the NWS's advisory, warning of winds that could gust to up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour and impaired visibility in some areas that could be a little as a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometers).

Wet heavy, snow weighted down power lines and snapped tree branches leading to outages in parts of the eastern United States, and more power problems were expected as the storm grows in intensity.

Power companies said they were reinforcing their crews in anticipation of long hours spent restoring service to customers left in the dark.

In Morristown, New Jersey, the Jersey Central Power and Light, said it had marshaled all available crews and support staff "to work around-the-clock, as needed, to restore service should weather-related outages occur."

Congress had hoped to soldier on through the snowstorm, which had been forecast days earlier, but announced Wednesday that several hearings and other Capitol Hill events would be canceled.

 

 

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