Washington braces for ‘historic snow storm’

A large winter storm that is expected to bring heavy snowfall to the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region on January 22 and 23. (Reuters)

The forecast for a historic blizzard has been there for days, looming over the nation’s capital like the UFO from “Independence Day.” Projected snowfall totals have ticked steadily upward, to the point where the National Weather Service — known for its conservative predictions — says more than 2 feet of snow could land on Washington.

Residents and elected officials throughout the Eastern United States are heeding the warning.

States of emergency have been declared in five states and the District of Columbia. Schools and government offices are being closed pre-emptively. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Food and supplies are disappearing from grocery and hardware stores. College basketball games and concerts will have to wait.

“It’s going to be dangerous out there,” said Tonya Woods, 42, a Washington Metro station manager who lives in suburban Clinton, Maryland. “I say they should shut things down.”

Late Thursday, she got her wish. The federal government announced that its offices would be closing at noon Friday. The capital’s subway system announced earlier in the day that 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.

The director of the National Weather Service said all the ingredients have come together to create blizzards 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 $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation, weather service director Louis Uccellini sad.

“It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,” Uccellini said at the service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

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, Uccellini said. Boston will probably get off easy this time, forecasters said.

Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Paul Kocin, who with Uccellini wrote a two-volume textbook on northeast snowstorms, estimated more than 2 feet for Washington, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and eight inches to a foot in New York.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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