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Snow Closes U.S. Offices, Disrupts East Coast Flights

Snow Moves to Washington, New York as Flights Are Disrupted
Snow at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on Feb. 26, 2013. Photographer: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

Light snow mixed with rain fell in Washington, where federal offices were closed and more than 1,000 flights scratched, as the city braced for a winter storm that dumped more than 9 inches of snow on Chicago.

Washington and Baltimore may get 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow before the storm lets up tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia. New York may see 4 inches or more and 6 to 10 inches may fall in the Boston area. The system has already left as much as 12 inches on the mountains of Virginia, the agency said.

“The D.C., Baltimore, even Philadelphia corridor, I think it goes back and forth today between the rain and the snow all day,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “For most of the day in those cities, the roads are fine. Maybe later today and the early part of tonight there will be some road issues.”

Federal offices in Washington were closed because of the storm, according to the Office of Personnel Management website.

As of 11:30 a.m. East Coast time, 1,932 flights had been canceled around the U.S., 617 of them to or from Washington’s Reagan National Airport, where US Airways Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. are the biggest carriers. A total of 520 flights were scrubbed at Dulles International, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service. United Continental Holdings Inc. accounts for half of all passengers there.

Airport Delays

Flights bound for Newark Liberty International in New Jersey and New York’s LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were being delayed at their departure points to ease congestion, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Flights were backed up three hours at Philadelphia International.

The storm has contributed to 3,600 cancellations across the U.S. since March 4, FlightAware said. More than 1,000 flights were scrubbed at Chicago’s two major airports yesterday as the Midwest was hit with its third major snowstorm in as many weeks.

About 186,000 utility customers were without power at 11:45 a.m. Eastern time in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The weather service issued a winter storm warning until 3 a.m. tomorrow for Washington and Baltimore. To the west, along the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia and Maryland, 10 to 15 inches of snow are possible with some places getting as much as 20 inches.

Warnings, Watches

A winter storm warning for eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut goes into effect at 6 p.m., and 6 to 10 inches of snow are expected before it expires at 1 p.m. March 8, according to the weather service.

For eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including Boston and Providence, a winter storm watch in effect from late today through March 8 predicts 4 to 10 inches of snow.

A winter weather advisory is in place in New York City from 6 p.m. until the same time tomorrow.

In New York, the storm will arrive as a mix of rain and snow before changing to rain alone in the afternoon, said Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York. Snow will return after dark from New York City across Long Island.

“That is when we will see some real accumulating snow, tonight,” Pollina said by telephone.

Long Storm

The snow will last into the day after tomorrow, leaving 4 to 6 inches in New York and more on Long Island, he said.

“It is a pretty long-duration event,” Pollina said.

Snowfall is expected to start in Boston late today and worsen tomorrow, said Alan Dunham, a weather service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.

“It will be a heavy, wet snow,” Dunham said. “It’s the kind of snow that sticks to trees and power lines, so there’s an increased likelihood of power outages. People who aren’t in the best shape, the elderly or people with heart problems, shouldn’t be shoveling this.”

Kines said the key to the storm for the Northeast will be air temperature and how far north the system can reach.

“When you get up into New York City and Boston, I still think there are some question marks as to how much precipitation you can get up there,” Kines said.

Possible Accumulation

If the temperature remains warmer than freezing, it’s possible only 3 to 6 inches will accumulate on unpaved surfaces, Kines said. On roads and in parking lots, even less snow may pile up.

“In D.C., where it was snowing very hard at times, roads are just wet and there is very little evidence of snow on the ground,” Kines said. “There is a concern that could happen upstream in New York City as well.”

Winter storm warnings and advisories stretch from Pennsylvania to Georgia in the Appalachian Mountains and east to the Atlantic Coast, according to the weather service. A winter storm watch extends from Delaware into southern New Jersey, including Philadelphia and Trenton, where 3 to 5 inches may fall.

Coastal flood watches have been issued from Delaware to Massachusetts, including all of New York’s Long Island. High tides may be 2 to 4 feet above normal, the weather service said.

“Folks who are on the east-facing coastal areas really have to pay attention to this storm,” Dunham said.

Stark said wind gusts of 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour to 45 miles per hour were possible in New York today.

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