Some 80 million people in northeast America were Wednesday digging their way out of a thick blanket of snow deposited by the heaviest snowfall of the season, with more than a foot falling in some places.
Government offices in Washington were opening two hours late, but schools in most parts were closed, roads shut down and thousands of flights grounded in the aftermath of winter Storm Janus, as it is called.
The huge storm that led to declaration of emergency in Delaware, New Jersey and New York stretched from Kentucky to New England but hit hardest along heavily populated areas between Philadelphia and Boston.
Snow began falling at mid-morning Tuesday in Philadelphia and dumped as much as 14 inches by Wednesday morning, with New York seeing almost as much.
Manalapan, New Jersey, had the highest snowfall reading, with nearly 16 inches, according to CBS.
At New York’s LaGuardia airport, weary travellers spent a restless and sleep-deprived night on airport chairs and cold floors, according to CNN. Flight cancellations put hotel rooms in short supply.
Airlines have already cancelled about 1,400 flights for Wednesday, after calling off more than 3,000 the day before, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking service.
Driven by frigid arctic air, the powerful system is making a mess of things up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but especially from Washington to Boston. A blizzard warning is in place for Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
“The greatest snowfall is likely for southern New England, where 12 to 18 inches of snow is a distinct possibility,” D. Hamrick of the National Weather Service was quoted as saying.
“It will definitely look and feel like a winter wonderland.”
While the precipitation might head offshore, vast areas of the eastern US are expected to stay in the icebox until the weekend. Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston are likely to have temperatures of 12 to 17 degrees Celsius below freezing point.