WASHINGTON • Much of the eastern United States and its mid-Atlantic region was blanketed in more than 30cm of snow yesterday as a deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds swept across the region.
Officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter, warning that the worst is yet to come.
US news reports said at least eight people had died on Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until today.
The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted that the storm could dump more than 60cm of snow from eastern Kentucky to Virginia, and across Washington, DC and Baltimore yesterday, bringing life to a wintry halt as residents ride out the rough weather.
A blizzard warning was in effect since Friday for a large swathe of the eastern US, from Washington to New York. The storm is expected to affect about 85 million Americans - about one quarter of the people in the country.
The blizzard could cause more than US$1 billion (S$1.44 billion) in damage, officials said. Several southern states were also hit by snow and sleet - unusual for the region - with tens of thousands left without power.
Washington police chief Cathy Lanier urged residents to stay indoors. "With the increasing winds and increasing snow accumulation, now we're going to see more and more people stranded," she told news channel CNN.
Several thousand flights, including Singapore Airlines flights to New York, were cancelled because of the storm, while officials in Washington took the unusual step of closing down the city's rail and bus system from Friday night until tomorrow morning.
The Metrorail - the second busiest underground train network in the US, after New York - serves about 700,000 commuters a day in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
Snow and sleet hit the southern states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia, with 18 states under blizzard or other winter storm warnings.
North-easterly winds will continue to strengthen to storm-force levels near the coastal areas, the NWS said. "We're having a lot of accidents," said Mr Pat McCrory, the governor of North Carolina, where two of the fatalities were reported to have occurred. Nearly 95,000 people were without power in the state, emergency officials said on Twitter. CNN reported that nearly 133,000 were without power across the south-east.
In Kentucky, some motorists were stranded on highways as the snowfall intensified, causing gridlocks on icy roads. Ms Dani Garner, her husband, three young children and mother-in-law were confined in their minivan on the inter-state highway for more than eight hours.
"We've got no food or water," Ms Garner told CNN. However, she and her family had enough petrol left in their tank and, therefore, could run the heater in the vehicle.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people to stay home to avoid the treacherous travel conditions wrought by the snowstorm. "Unless urgent, stay off the roads," he said.
Not everyone was badly affected by the adverse weather. The snowstorm was greeted happily in Virginia's ski resorts.
Mr Hank Thiess, the general manager of Wintergreen ski resort in central Virginia, said: "We're thrilled. We're set up to have a terrific second half of the ski season."
He added that he was looking forward to having about 100cm of dry, powdery snow that would be perfect for skiing, reported the Washington Times.