Eastern U.S. preparing for major snowstorm

WASHINGTON -- Drivers in the Washington area spent hours in icy gridlock ahead of heavy snowfall that's predicted to arrive by the weekend from the Appalachian Mountains to Philadelphia and maybe farther north.

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On Thursday morning, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a state of emergency and said people should "take the threat of this storm seriously." He warned of travel disruptions and power outages. McAuliffe said crews are treating roads before the weekend storm hits, but state transportation officials urged drivers to stay off roads until the storm passes.

Treated roads were clear, but some elevated roads, ramps and side streets were icy with drivers creeping along.

In northern Virginia, minor accidents built to gridlock, and ramp closures continued through the night, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer McCord said. State police responded to 767 crashes over a 24-hour period ending early Thursday, and two troopers were involved in accidents, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

With more winter weather approaching, people throughout the region readied themselves for blocked roads, power outages and cancelled flights.

The National Weather Service said in a statement Wednesday that up to 16 inches (40 centimetres) of snow could come down between Friday night and Sunday morning in the region.

Mitchell Gaines of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, said people should be prepared for strong winds, heavy, wet snow and power outages.

The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center warns of heavy, "perhaps crippling" snow across the northern mid-Atlantic region, including Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, probably beginning Friday.

In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser requested Humvees from the National Guard to reach isolated people and places if necessary.

In the areas where blizzard conditions are possible, the weather service warns that travel will be limited or impossible. The strongest winds and potentially life-threatening conditions are expected Friday night through Saturday night.

On Wednesday, the weather service issued blizzard and winter storm watches for parts of Maryland, Washington, Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas. The watches start as early as Thursday and stretch into Saturday.

The storm will bring ice and freezing rain to Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky starting Thursday, prediction centre meteorologist Rich Otto said Wednesday.



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