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Blizzard paralyzes US mid-Atlantic

While stopped at a traffic signal, two men jump into the bed of their truck to join a snowball fight with hundreds of revellers in Dupont Circle in Washington, February 6, 2010. A blizzard producing heavy snow and powerful winds pummeled the US mid-Atlantic on Saturday, causing at least two fatalities and paralyzing travel in the region.  (REUTERS)

By Reuters
A blizzard dumped two feet (half a meter) of snow across much of the US mid-Atlantic on Saturday, paralyzing travel, leaving tens of thousands without power and creating a winter wonderland in a region not used to big snows.

Snowfall totals of 20 to 38 inches (51 to 99 cm) blanketed a crescent from West Virginia to southern New Jersey by early evening when the flakes stopped falling after more than 24 hours.

More than 230,000 homes lost power in the Washington area, according to The Washington Post, after the snow felled trees, brought down powerlines and damaged utility poles. Pepco electric company said its workers were scrambling to restore power, but said it could be a few days before everyone was back up.

Traffic was at a virtual standstill in the nation's capital and surrounding areas as the sun set on many deserted, unplowed streets. Up to 32 inches (81 cm) of snow had fallen in suburban Washington in the biggest snowfall to hit the city in decades.

"[It's] certainly as much snow as many of us have seen in our lifetime in one particular storm," Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty told local television.

With hundreds of trucks plowing the streets of the city, Fenty said he has one goal: "To have the city ready and open for business Monday morning."

The Dupont Circle neighborhood took on a carnival-like atmosphere as hundreds of young adults filled the traffic circle for some snowball warfare. Local media reported two Washingtonians used social networking websites to organize the snowball fight.

The National Weather Service declared a 24-hour blizzard warning for the Washington-Baltimore region until 10 p.m. EST Saturday/0300 GMT Sunday.

Winds were strong, especially along the mid-Atlantic coast, with gusts recorded up to 40 mph (64 kph).

Virginia state police reported two people were killed in the state when they were struck by a tractor-trailer after stopping to help a stranded motorist.


Most flights were canceled on Saturday at the Washington-Baltimore area's three main airports and at Philadelphia International Airport. At Dulles Airport outside Washington, part of the roof of a jet hangar collapsed under the weight of snow but no one was injured.

Driving in the region was treacherous and authorities advised motorists to stay off the roads.

President Barack Obama had to venture out of the White House to speak at a Democratic National Committee meeting and his motorcade was involved in a minor accident. Obama dubbed the blizzard "Snowmageddon."

Washington's Metro train service was operating only underground on Saturday and bus service was canceled.

Amtrak canceled a number of trains operating between New York and Washington and also between Washington and some destinations to the south.

On Friday, the storm brought school closings and long lines at supermarkets as frenzied area residents rushed to stock up on groceries and other supplies ahead of a traditional party weekend for watching Sunday's Super Bowl football game.

Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia each declared snow emergencies, allowing them to activate emergency agencies, including the National Guard, to help deal with the wintry onslaught.

Unseasonably cold temperatures were expected in the storm's wake next week in the US Northeast.