U.S. Mid-Atlantic braces for storm that may dump two feet of snow

WASHINGTON: Washington, D.C., and New York City were under blizzard watches on Thursday and states of emergency were declared in Virginia and Maryland ahead of a blustery weekend storm expected to slam the East Coast with up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow.

Some airlines offered to waive change fees for passengers seeking to avoid flying – or getting stuck at the airport – in what is expected to be the first significant East Coast storm of an otherwise balmy winter.

Snow lovers were gleeful with the frosty forecast, with the New York Post front page declaring, “This weekend will be … Whiter than the Oscars. Snowstorm to hit NYC,” referring to the controversy over the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Award nominations.

Heavy snow and high winds were forecast for the Washington and Baltimore areas with blizzard conditions starting on Friday afternoon, said meteorologist Daniel Petersen of the National Weather Service.

“The heaviest snows will probably be a bit west of the cities. We’re expecting a fairly large area of 1 to 2 feet of snow from northwestern Virginia to eastern Virginia and parts of central Maryland,” Petersen said.

Washington’s public schools opened with a two-hour delay on Thursday under sunny skies that belied forecasts for a storm reminiscent of the February 2010 blizzard that paralyzed the nation’s capitol.

“It has potential to rival that type of historic heavy snow event,” Petersen said.

Barreling up the East Coast, the storm was expected to deliver a slightly weaker wallop to the New York City and Long Island area with blizzard conditions from Saturday morning through Sunday.

Gusts of 60 miles per hour (96 kph) were expected to blast New Jersey beaches, possibly causing flooding in low-lying areas, he said.

Just a dusting of snow during the Wednesday evening rush hour snarled traffic badly in the Washington region.

Governors in Virginia and Maryland declared states of emergency and in West Virginia a state of preparedness – all to allow for road crews and other workers to prepare for the storm.