A life-threatening blizzard expected to dump a record 30 inches of snow on the US capital slammed the east coast on Saturday, leaving at least nine persons dead nationwide and causing 10 states to declare a state of emergency.
Officials urged millions of people in the storm’s path to seek shelter and brace for a weekend of travel disruptions.
The states most hit by the blizzard were Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Kentucky, in addition to Washington DC, which has declared a “snow emergency.”
In Virginia, which has a large Telugu population, media reported several weather-related accidents on Friday. Virginia State Police responded to more than 800 traffic accidents.
In a statement, the North American Telugu Association urged members to stay indoors and take precautions for safety.
A number of temples and other places of worship, including gurdwaras, in the region have opened up to shelter people.
Up to 85 million people -- about one quarter of the US population -- were in the path of the storm that has iced up much of the East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic.
At least nine people have died, reports said.
Latest estimates suggest more than 1,20,000 homes have been left without electricity as the storm, dubbed “Snowzilla” by some US media, began dumping several inches of snow across the region.
Governors in at least 10 American states have declared states of emergency while Washington is likely to be covered under 30 inches of snow over the weekend, in what could be a record snowfall.
“We have a forecast that we did not have in 90 years. It has life-and-death implication, and all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way,” Washington DC Mayor Miriel E Bowser said.
He said District National Guard has been deployed.
Local governments have deployed hundreds of ploughs and salt trucks to clear out snow on roads and highways.
With temperatures below the freezing point, people stayed indoors and found shelters to keep warm.
Unlike a normal Friday night, most of the downtowns, malls and restaurants were deserted and hardly any traffic was seen on the road.
More than 6,000 flights were cancelled between Friday and Saturday and over 4,500 delayed. As a precaution, the public transport system has been shut down in the Washington region.
“The combination of heavy snowfall and strong winds will produce whiteout conditions and extremely dangerous travel,” the National Weather Service said.
NWS officials said the storm could cause more than $1 billion (Rs 6,757 crore) in damage. The blizzard is expected to last about 36 hours and leave more than two feet of snow in some places.
In a tweet, the service said “the real teeth” of the storm would be felt midnight through the afternoon today. “Heavy snow, increasing winds, lightning threat,” it warned.
Officials throughout the Mid-Atlantic region warned that it could be days, or even a week, before residents will be able to dig out.