A massive blizzard is charging toward the East Coast on Friday, one that the National Weather Service said could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region.
With more than two feet of snow predicted for Washington alone, schools were closed, flights were canceled and a state of emergency was declared across a vast area.
The National Weather Service says the nation's capital could get as much as 29 inches of snow by the time the storm ends Sunday, possibly breaking the record set during the January 1922 Knickerbocker blizzard, when 28 inches covered DC. That blizzard was named after the tragedy at the Crandall's Knickerbocker Theater where 98 people were killed and 133 injured when the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.
NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin compared this weekend's storm to 'Snowmageddon,' the first of two storms that 'wiped out' Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow, but said the weekend timing and the days of warning could help limit deaths and damage.
'It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,' Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service, said at its Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
As of Friday morning, some 85 million people across the Eastern U.S. were under blizzard of winter storm warnings.
He said all the elements have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm.
The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1billion in damage and paralyze the eastern third of the nation, Uccellini said.
Snowfall as heavy as one to three inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more, said Kocin.
In addition to Washington, 12 to 18 inches of snow was predicted for Philadelphia and eight to 12 inches was expected in New York.
A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and parts of other states, and road crews were out in force.
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