‘Find a Safe Place': Massive Snowstorm Barrels Up East Coast, Blamed in at Least 10 Deaths

At least 10 people have died in traffic fatalities linked to the dangerous weather.

A mammoth storm that's shuttered tens of millions of residents from northern Georgia to New Jersey already has dumped heavy snow in 14 states, including 18 inches in Kentucky, as it continues to move eastward.

The National Weather Service's website early Saturday said 18 inches of snow had fallen on Ulysses in eastern Kentucky, while 16 inches fell in Beattyville. Between 14 inches to 15.5 inches had fallen in at other locations across Kentucky, including Frenchburg, Mount Vernon, Eglon and Lancer.

The Weather service says 7 inches of snow fell in Washington, D.C. while snowfall amounts in nearby Maryland ranged between 4.5 inches in Baltimore and 13.5 inches in Oakland. In Virginia, Reagan National Airport reported 6.8 inches of snow and Elma had 15 inches. Other states that recorded snowfall amounts greater than 6 inches included Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Various locations in Georgia and Alabama received between 1 and 3.5 inches of snow.

Snow started falling Friday, but the worst was still yet to come, with strong winds and heavy snow expected to produce "life-threatening blizzard conditions" throughout the day Saturday.

Hours into a massive storm forecast to dump snow on the East Coast for two days, authorities were blaming it for at least 10 fatalities and shutting down mass transit systems to prevent more. 

The worst of the monster storm is yet to come – blizzard conditions are not expected until Saturday. One in seven Americans will get at least half a foot of snow outside their homes by Sunday, with many in the the eastern United States sitting through gale-force winds, white-out conditions and flooding.

Eight state governors had declared emergencies by Friday night, with Washington, D.C. residents urged to stay inside and New Jersey's commuter railroad planned to stay closed Saturday until conditions abated.

The storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region, according to the National Weather Service, burying the nation's capital under potentially historic snowfall. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents Friday to "hunker down" and "shelter in place" through the storm.

"Find a safe place and stay there," she beseeched.

Thousands of flights to and from the region were canceled before wet, driving snow began falling Friday morning in Virginia, Tennessee and other parts of the south. Snow arrived in Washington, D.C. in the early afternoon, and the crawled up the East Coast Friday evening, arriving in Philadelphia by 9 p.m. It will blow into New York City by Saturday morning.

Conditions quickly became treacherous where the heavy flakes fell. Arkansas and Tennessee saw 8 inches on the ground, and states across the Deep South grappled with icy, snow-covered roads and power outages.

At least 10 people died in traffic fatalities in the dangerous weather, six of which were in North Carolina. The state's highway patrol responded to 1,200 collisions, most attributed to the storm.

Stacy Sherrill was one of the dead, her car plummeting off an icy road in Tennessee. Sherrill's husband survived after climbing for hours up a 300-foot embankment.

Much heavier snow and wind gusting to 50 mph should create blinding whiteout conditions once the storm joins up with a low pressure system off the coast, said Bruce Sullivan, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Snow was expected to continue for up to 36 hours. The storm could dump up to 30 inches of snow in the Washington area, 2 feet on Philadelphia, 20 inches on central New Jersey and 6 to 12 inches on New York.

States of emergency were declared in the cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, and eight states: Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm's path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York.

National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin compared the storm to "Snowmageddon," the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow in places. He said the weekend timing and days of warning could help limit deaths and damage.

More than 100,000 people lost power in North Carolina, along with tens of thousands in other states.

The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation, National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said.

"It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," Uccellini said, adding that all the ingredients have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow.

Washington looks like the bull's-eye of the blizzard, Uccellini said. According to NBC Washington, the first flakes began to fall in the capital around 1 p.m. ET Friday, with 12 to 18 inches expected by sunrise Saturday. The storm will continue through Sunday morning and could blanket the region in record snowfall.

"This is probably going to be one of the top three snowfalls of all time for Washington," said Daniel Petersen, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would ride out the storm at the White House. Federal offices will close at noon Friday, along with the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The capital's subway system will shut down late Friday and remain closed through Sunday.

Farther north, in Philadelphia, most public transit will shut down early Saturday, according to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. Officials are concerned about the potential for fallen trees and damaged overhead wires. Snow in Philadelphia is expected to start Friday evening.

New York City is just inside the storm's sharp northern edge, which means it is likely to see heavy accumulations of up to 2 feet, the NBC New York weather team predicts. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared a winter weather emergency in the city beginning Saturday morning and urged residents to stay inside. 

Parts of central New Jersey could see more than a foot of snow. Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Friday afternoon as the blizzard takes aim at his home state.

The snow will drop off quickly on the northern fringes of the storm, making it a near miss for parts of New England. Martha's Vineyard and Block Island are under a blizzard warning and Southern Connecticut is expecting about 6 inches, but Boston will see little to no accumulation. Northern New England will be unaffected.

Snow isn't the only concern surrounding this weekend's storm. Uccellini warned of high winds, a storm surge and inland flooding from Delaware to New York, but said it won't be quite as bad as Superstorm Sandy, which paralyzed much of the waterlogged coast. Other severe but non-snowy weather is likely from Texas to Florida as the storm system chugs across the Gulf Coast, gaining moisture.

Train service could be disrupted as well by frozen switches, the loss of third-rail electric power or trees falling on overhead wires. About 1,000 track workers will be deployed to keep New York City's subway system moving, and 79 trains will have "scraper shoes" to reduce icing on the rails, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said.

All major airlines have issued travel waivers over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. More than 3,400 U.S. flights on Friday have been canceled already, with another 3,800 canceled for Saturday, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. More than 6,600 flights were delayed by 6 p.m. ET.

Ari Mason and Asher Klein contributed to this report. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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