A massive winter storm is taking aim at Washington Friday, threatening to dump near record amounts of snow and create crippling blizzard conditions as it moves up the east coast.
Forecasters say the storm could bury the U.S. capital in more than 60 centimeters of snow, which is set to begin falling midday Friday and continue into Sunday. Dangerous winds and coastal flooding are also expected.
Ahead of the storm, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency and closed local schools Friday. Federal government offices are closing at noon. Authorities are even taking the rare step of closing the D.C. Metro public transit system.
So far, more than 4,500 flights have been canceled across the nation. Widespread power outages were also expected, and authorities warned residents to stock up on essential food and supplies.
States of emergency were also declared in Maryland as well as in Virginia, where the governor, Terry McAuliffe, said people should «take the threat of this storm seriously.» The two states are adjacent to Washington.
The storm is expected to affect tens of millions of people from Kentucky through New England.
Many meteorologists say the various forecast models and readings that frequently disagree on the path of big storms all concur that it will be strong as it comes up the Atlantic coast and pulls in moisture.
Computer forecast models are calling for a windy, slow-moving system.
Rich Otto, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center outside Washington, said Tuesday an upper-level disturbance in the air was moving from the Pacific Ocean to the Rockies to the southern Plains. It was predicted to become a «nor’easter» Friday evening over the mid-Atlantic and then move up the coast on Saturday.
A nor’easter gets its name from the northeasterly winds that blow in from the ocean ahead of the storm. These storms form along the U.S. East Coast as warm air from over the Atlantic Ocean clashes with Arctic cold to the north and west.
Along with strong winds, beach erosion and possible flooding in the affected areas are expected.