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Blizzard strikes East Coast; 30 inches possible in New York

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Posted at 7:11 AM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 19:36:13-05

A massive winter storm clobbered the East Coast on Saturday, dumping more than three feet of snow in parts of West Virginia and Maryland, tying up traffic on highways, grounding thousands of flights and shutting down travel in the nation’s largest city.

“This is bad, and it’s getting worse rapidly,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Fourteen people, from North Carolina to New York, have died in the storm.

Here are the latest developments as of 7:25 p.m. ET:

— Officials in Virginia, New York and Maryland announced additional deaths, bringing the total to 14.

— Baltimore’s mayor banned all non-emergency vehicles through at least Sunday morning.

— As of Saturday evening, Glengary, West Virginia, reported the highest snowfall, with 40 inches. Dulles International Airport had 26.5 inches. New York-area airports had about 20 inches of snow.

By the numbers:

• 38 inches of snow reported in Redhouse, Maryland, by Saturday evening.

• More than 21 inches fell at Newark Liberty International, more than 20 inches at JFK and LaGuardia.

• At least 14 people dead (six in North Carolina, three in Virginia, one in Kentucky, three in New York City and one in Maryland).

• 11 states declared states of emergency: Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. Washington, D.C., has declared a “snow emergency.”

• 18-48 inches of snow possible in some areas, according to meteorologists.

• More than 6,680 flights were canceled for Saturday and Sunday, according to FlightAware.com.

Top 5 snowfalls in D.C., NYC?

The outlook? Snow. Lots and lots of snow.

As many as 30 inches of snow may be on the ground in southern New York by storm’s end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

That’s a significant jump from the 16 inches that had been predicted for the city earlier in the morning.

A travel ban was in effect on all roads in New York City and Long Island. City bus service and above-ground subway lines were halted, along with area rail services such as the Long Island Rail Road.

All Broadway performances were canceled due to the blizzard, according to the Broadway League.

The snowfall could rank among the city’s top five accumulations in recorded history, said Mayor de Blasio. “If you are out on the street, get in now.”

The wind-driven snow appeared to descend sideways, making it difficult to see. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, doctoral student Luis Abraham Garcia of Mexico pushed a wheeled suitcase on the snow-covered sidewalks, hoping to catch an outbound train.

He’d been in Washington on Friday, intending to fly home to Mexico City. However, the flight was canceled, so he traveled to New York to catch a flight Saturday. That flight, too, was called off. So now he hoped to take a train to Chicago, where he would try again to fly home.

This was Garcia’s first snowstorm.

“I’ve never seen snow like this. I’ve been to New York during other seasons — in the cold and the heat — but never saw it under a blanket of snow,” he said.

As in New York City, the storm could rank in Washington’s top five snowfall accumulations. The record is 28 inches, set in 1922.

Mayor Muriel Bowser warned that there were “too many people on the streets, both driving and walking” in Washington.

“Visibility is poor, so anyone walking or driving in the area runs the risk of getting hit by crews who are trying to clear the roads,” she said.

Stranded

The storm caused major traffic tie-ups on highways in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Road accidents Friday night caused a 7-mile-long backlog involving around 500 vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a state police spokeswoman said. The traffic stayed there through Saturday afternoon, when police started turning some drivers around and allowing them off at points along the roadway.

Among those stuck on the turnpike: The Duquesne University men’s basketball team, on the road after a victory against George Mason in Virginia. Photos that the team posted to Twitter showed senior forward Nick Foschia making a snow angel in the road and a line of vehicles stranded on the highway. Also stuck was the Temple University women’s gymnastics team.

Members of the National Guard and the local fire department delivered water to some of the stranded motorists Saturday morning.

Guard members were also dispatched in West Virginia to help move stuck tractor trailers that blocked a roughly 11-mile stretch of Interstate 77 north of Charleston.

In central Kentucky, some drivers were stranded along a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 75 for as long as 19 hours, from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.

Power outages and flight cancellations

At 10:45 a.m., Duke Energy was reporting about 140,000 outages in North Carolina and South Carolina alone. About 60,000 were in North Carolina’s Raleigh area.

Those states were hit hard by a combination of snow, sleet, ice and strong winds, though they’re hardly the only places experiencing major disruptions.

More high winds and a “potential ice build-up tonight along the power lines” could lead to more power outages in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory said.

Most airports in the Mid-Atlantic virtually were shut down.

Mass transit services in Washington and Baltimore have been suspended for the weekend. And some Amtrak service to and from the East Coast has either been canceled or truncated.

Flooding in New Jersey, game postponements

Snow and ice weren’t the only concern. The storm’s winds were pushing water from the ocean into New Jersey’s barrier islands.

More than 50 people have been displaced from their homes around Atlantic City because of “significant flooding,” said Vince Jones, the emergency management director.

Jones said that an “extremely high” tide and strong winds “really pushed the water up from the ocean onto the streets.”

A river of ankle-deep seawater spilled into the streets of Margate City just south of Atlantic City, lapping up against sandbags that business owners put in front of their stores.

New Jersey still faced misery from snow, which could fall Saturday at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour in some places, Gov. Chris Christie said.

To top it off, the winter storm has forced the postponement of hundreds of events — including NBA games in Philadelphia and Washington, plus an NHL contest in the nation’s capital and a rally for the Carolina Panthers ahead of their NFC professional football championship in Charlotte.