Blizzard Strikes East Coast; Motorists Stuck in Kentucky
A massive winter storm clobbered a huge swath of the eastern United States on Saturday, pounding cities from Washington to New York with snow and stranding hundreds of motorists from Kentucky to Pennsylvania on icy interstates.
NBC Montana reports 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.
"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 11 a.m. ET:
-- 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.
-- "There are too many people on the streets, both driving and walking" in Washington, Bowser said late Saturday morning as heavy snow continued to fall there. 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 warned.
-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the snowfall for parts of his state has been upped "to about 16 to 24 inches." While things are "so far, so good" around 9:30 a.m., Cuomo said "conditions will start to deteriorate" once the center of the storm hits New York City around 11 a.m. Also in New York City, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority will suspend all of its bus service in at noon Saturday, Cuomo said.
-- New Jersey saw some minor coastal flooding Saturday morning, though a bigger concern is snow that could fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour in some places, Gov. Chris Christie 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. 9,290 flights were canceled from Friday through Sunday, according to FlightAware.com. 159,162 customers in 13 states are without power because of the storm, according to various energy companies. More than 140,000 of them are in the Carolinas. 33 million people are under blizzard warnings.
While most people in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast stayed inside -- much to the relief of public officials and first responders -- major highways in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania turned into parking lots 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, with truck after truck after truck and cars sliding 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 similarly dire 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.
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 are under blizzard warnings.
Frank McCarton, a New York City emergency management spokesman, doesn't expect things to get any better in his neck of the woods until Saturday evening.
"This is not normal business at all, in any of these cities up and down the East Coast," added Maloney from Baltimore. "And we're in a different mode of operations."
Forecast: What's the outlook?
Snow. Lots and lots of snow.
Through noon Saturday, the forecast shows snowfall rates could potentially reach 10 inches every six hours, according to Chris Geldart of the District of Columbia's emergency management agency.
The snow arrived in Washington Friday afternoon and quickly intensified. Thirteen inches had fallen in Washington 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.
Baltimore may get 19-29 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.
Hurricane-force wind gusts will be possible Saturday along the Eastern Seaboard, with moderate flooding likely.
Snowfall forecasts for parts of southern New York have been upped "to about 16 to 24 inches," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday morning.
"Conditions will start to deteriorate" once the center of the storm hits New York City around 11 a.m, he said. Public bus service in the city was scheduled to stop at noon because of the storm, he said.
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.
Outages, cancellations and postponements
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.
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.