NEW YORK – A massive winter storm clobbered the eastern United States on Saturday and in some places appeared poised to dump more snow than expected — including up to 30 inches in downstate New York and up to 4 feet in Maryland and West Virginia, officials and forecasters said.
At least 13 people are dead, according to state and municipal officials. New reports of two deaths from hypothermia in Virginia and three linked to snow shoveling in New York increased the toll from eight.
With snow falling as fast as 3 inches an hour, New York officials said road travel in New York City and Long Island would be banned starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. Above-ground train service in the area would stop at 4 p.m.
“This is bad, and it’s getting worse rapidly,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
As many as 85 million people have been in the path of the storm, which also caused motorists to be stranded on major highways in at least three states overnight from Friday to Saturday.
Here are the latest developments as of 5:30 p.m. ET:
— More than 6,680 flights were canceled for Saturday and Sunday because of the storm, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com.
— 500 vehicles are stranded on a 7-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, state police say, but the vehicles are being cleared.
— Another 700 national guard troops could be activated in New York and New Jersey, for a total of 3,000 along the East Coast.
By the numbers:
• More than 35 inches of snow reported near Hancock, Maryland, by Saturday afternoon.
• More than 23 inches reported in Dulles, Virginia, Saturday afternoon.
• At least 13 people dead nationwide.
• 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.”
• 18-48 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 6,680 flights were canceled for Saturday and Sunday, according to FlightAware.com.
• More than 200,000 customers in 13 states were without power because of the storm, according to various energy companies. Many of them were in the Carolinas and New Jersey.
• 33 million people are under blizzard warnings.
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.
Road travel was banned in New York City and the “downstate area,” starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday because of the snowstorm, Cuomo said. City bus service was stopped at noon. Above-ground train service and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains would stop around 4 p.m. ET, Cuomo said.
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 de Blasio, the mayor.
“If you are out on the street, get in now,” de Blasio said.
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.
In Washington, snow arrived gently 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, Mayor Bowser 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.
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.
As many as 48 inches of snow could fall in eastern West Virginia and northern Maryland, the National Weather Service said.
In that area, the town of Hancock, Maryland, had already received more than 35 inches of snow by 1:40 p.m. ET, according to the weather service.
Baltimore may get 18 to 30 inches between Friday and Saturday night, the weather service said. About 16 inches had fallen by early Saturday afternoon.
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.
While many people in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast stayed inside, major highways in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania turned into parking lots, 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 was stuck along with her three children, husband and mother-in-law in a long line of stranded vehicles.
“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.
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.
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.
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, Atlantic City’s 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 on Saturday morning, 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.
Though Friday’s game between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes went on as planned in Raleigh, pictures from inside the arena didn’t show much of a crowd.