8 dead as blizzard strikes East Coast; drivers stranded for hours in Kentucky

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EAST COAST OF THE U.S. -A massive winter storm clobbered a huge swath of the eastern United States on Saturday, pounding cities such as Washington and New York with snow and stranding hundreds of motorists from Kentucky to Pennsylvania on icy interstates.

With snow falling as fast as 3 inches an hour, New York officials said road travel in New York City and the downstate area would be banned starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. Train service in the area would stop at 4 p.m.

"If you are out on the street, get in now," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

All Broadway shows — both matinees and evening performances — were canceled Saturday after New York state officials declared a weather emergency.

The ban on travel in New York and the suspension of public transportation by government authorities forced Broadway producers and theater owners to pull the plug.

Charlotte St. Martin, the president of The Broadway League, which represents producers, says: "We expect normal operations to resume for tomorrow's Sunday matinees."

Up to 85 million people are in the storm's path. Officials in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast -- much of which was under blizzard warnings -- said Saturday morning that they've largely been able to avoid major problems so far. But the storm was far from done.

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"We haven't turned the corner at all," Baltimore emergency management director Robert Maloney told CNN. "I wouldn't say we're even halfway there yet."

Here are the latest developments as of 12:25 p.m. ET:

-- The blizzard will almost certainly be among New York City's "top five snowstorms" in recorded history in terms of snow accumulation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday. With 11.5 inches in Central Park as of 10 a.m., the mayor said, the National Weather Service now estimates a total of 20 to 25 inches will have fallen by the storm's end -- often at a rapid clip of between 1 and 3 inches per hour. "This is bad and it's getting worse rapidly," de Blasio said.

-- About 80,000 customers are without power in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie thinks that figure will rise due to a combination of wet, heavy snow; strong winds; and substation outages. Christie said parts of southern New Jersey experienced some street flooding, though he expects things will get better in that regard.

-- More than 50 people have been displaced from their homes around Atlantic City, New Jersey, due to "significant flooding" related to the blizzard moving through the region, said Vince Jones, Atlantic City's emergency management director. Jones said Saturday that an "extremely high" tide and strong winds "really pushed the water up from the ocean onto the streets."

-- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said a combination of more high winds statewide and "potential ice build-up tonight along the power lines" could lead to more power outages in his state. At 10:45 a.m., Duke Energy reported about 140,000 customers without power in the Carolinas.

-- Washington, D.C., had seen up to 13 inches of snow by 10 a.m. Saturday, with another 10 inches possible by the time the storm finally passes, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. Wind gusts of about 50 mph have been reported, and authorities managed to answer all 300 calls to emergency dispatchers since the blizzard hit Friday, she said.

By the numbers:

• 1/10th of a mile visibility in Baltimore on Saturday morning due to heavy snow.

• Eight people dead nationwide (Six fatalities were in North Carolina, one in Virginia and one in Kentucky.)

• 11 states declared states of emergency. They are: Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. Washington has declared a "snow emergency."

• 18-40 inches of snow possible in some areas, according to meteorologists.

• 55 mph wind gusts are possible in Norfolk, Virginia.

• 989 traffic crashes and 793 disabled vehicles were responded to by Virginia State Police as of late Friday night.

• More than 8,600 flights were canceled from Friday through Sunday, according to FlightAware.com.

• More than 200,000 customers in 13 states were without power Saturday because of the storm, according to various energy companies. About 140,000 of them were in the Carolinas.

• 33 million people are under blizzard warnings.

Stranded

While many people in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast stayed inside, major highways in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania turned into parking lots Friday and Saturday, forcing people to stay put and try to stay warm for hours on end.

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

Dani Garner, her three children, her husband and her mother-in-law were among those stuck on I-75, with long lines of similarly stranded cars and trucks in front of and behind her.

"We've got no food or water," she told CNN early Saturday, adding that she was thankful they had enough gas to run the heater. "Honestly, if my van wasn't heated up I'd probably be boxed in with ice right now."

Kentucky State Police Capt. David Jude said the stretch Garner is on had frozen over, and trucks and cars slid off the roadway. Police officers and National Guard troops were giving motorists supplies and getting wrecked vehicles off the highway, police said.

Traffic largely was moving along the stretch by 8:30 a.m. Saturday, motorists said.

A similar situation played out along a westbound portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Breezewood and New Stanton, State Police Capt. Brian Milore told CNN.

Claire Jackson, 17, told CNN Saturday morning that her bus had been at an "absolute standstill" since 8 p.m. Friday.

"I just see cars," Jackson said, who was with about 50 students going from Washington back home to Kansas City, Missouri. "All the hazards are blinking."

Also stuck on the turnpike overnight: A bus carrying the Duquesne University men's basketball team, on the road after Friday afternoon's 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.

National Guard members arrived Saturday morning to assist the stranded motorists on the turnpike, a post on the turnpike's Twitter feed said.

And in West Virginia, National Guard members were dispatched to help move stuck tractor trailers that blocked a roughly 11-mile stretch of Interstate 77 north of Charleston. The state's emergency management agency said late Friday that the highway was "completely shut down" -- a status that hadn't changed by mid-morning Saturday.

Still, none of these areas were getting the worst the storm had to offer. That honor went to the heavily populated stretch between Washington and New York City that is under blizzard warnings.

Forecast: Top 5 snowfalls in D.C., NYC?

The outlook? Snow. Lots and lots of snow.

Snow arrived in Washington Friday afternoon and quickly intensified. Thirteen inches had fallen there by 10 a.m. ET Saturday, and another 10 could fall by the time the last flakes come down Saturday night, Mayor Bowser said.

The storm probably will rank in Washington's top five in terms of snowfall accumulation since record keeping began in the 1880s. The record is 28 inches, set in 1922.

Bowser warned that there were "too many people on the streets, both driving and walking" in Washington on Saturday morning.

"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.

A top-five accumulation also is possible in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.

With 11.5 inches in Central Park as of 10 a.m., de Blasio said, the National Weather Service estimates a total of 20 to 25 inches will have fallen by the storm's end -- often at a rapid clip of between 1 and 3 inches per hour.

"This is bad, and it's getting worse rapidly," de Blasio said. Public bus service in the city was scheduled to stop at noon because of the storm.

Baltimore may get 19 to 29 inches between Friday and Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service. The agency tweeted that the worst of the storm will run from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The wind, which could reach up to 50 mph or higher, is a big concern, as are sleet and black ice, which are affecting roads in North Carolina, according to the state's department of transportation.

Power outages and flight cancellations

As the storm's impact widens as it moves north, power outages are expected to soar.

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 Saturday morning.

Most airports in the Mid-Atlantic virtually were shut down. United Airlines, for instance, said operations at Dulles and D.C. metro airports were suspended, with plans to resume limited flights on Sunday night.

The ripple effect extended to Los Angeles International Airport, with 86 canceled arriving and departing flights.

Public transportation and train travel felt the storm's effects too. 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 are pushing water from the ocean into New Jersey's barrier islands.

More than 50 people have been displaced from their homes around Atlantic City due to "significant flooding," said Vince Jones, Atlantic City's emergency management director.

Jones said Saturday 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 on Saturday morning, lapping up against sandbags that business owners put in front of their stores, a CNN crew reported from the scene.

Hurricane-force wind gusts will be possible Saturday along the Eastern Seaboard, making more flooding possible.

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, as well as a rally for the Carolina Panthers ahead of their NFC professional football championship in Charlotte.

Though the game between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes went on as planned, pictures from inside the arena didn't show much of a crowd.

***For continuing coverage of the storm, click here***