PICTURES

Winter storm slams north-eastern US with Arctic punch

The Wall Street bull is dusted with snow during a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Wall Street bull is dusted with snow during a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Garbage awaits pick-up during a snowstorm on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Garbage awaits pick-up during a snowstorm on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman walks through a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman walks through a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Capital Bikeshare bicycles are covered with snow at a loading dock on 14th Street on Jan 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
Capital Bikeshare bicycles are covered with snow at a loading dock on 14th Street on Jan 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
Sidewalks are cleared of snow and ice during a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Sidewalks are cleared of snow and ice during a snowstorm that is moving through the north-east on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Blowing snow begins to pile up along the National Mall on Jan 21, 2014, in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
Blowing snow begins to pile up along the National Mall on Jan 21, 2014, in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
A tourist surveys the snowfall in front of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall on Jan 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
A tourist surveys the snowfall in front of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall on Jan 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of Central Park in the snow as New Yorkers get hit with a winter storm in the north-east on Jan 21, 2014, that could bring up to 30cm of snow in the city. -- PHOTO: AFP
A view of Central Park in the snow as New Yorkers get hit with a winter storm in the north-east on Jan 21, 2014, that could bring up to 30cm of snow in the city. -- PHOTO: AFP
People walk past a CitiBike stand during a snowstorm on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO:  AFP 
People walk past a CitiBike stand during a snowstorm on Jan 21, 2014 in New York City. -- PHOTO:  AFP 
A Northern Cardinal sits on a tree branch in falling snow in the New York City suburb of Nyack, New York, on Jan 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A Northern Cardinal sits on a tree branch in falling snow in the New York City suburb of Nyack, New York, on Jan 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Children play in the snow at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Jan 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Children play in the snow at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Jan 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A man shields himself with an umbrella as he crosses 5th Avenue as snow falls in New York on Jan 21, 2014. A fast-moving winter storm forecast to dump as much as 30cm of snow on the north-eastern United States on Tuesday was expected to disrupt the e
A man shields himself with an umbrella as he crosses 5th Avenue as snow falls in New York on Jan 21, 2014. A fast-moving winter storm forecast to dump as much as 30cm of snow on the north-eastern United States on Tuesday was expected to disrupt the evening commute for millions of people along the densely populated coast. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A winter storm packing snow and Arctic cold slammed the north-eastern United States (US) on Tuesday, grounding 3,000 flights, shutting down governments and schools and making travel a potential nightmare for millions.

States across the north-east declared emergencies and warned residents not to travel during the fast-moving storm, which packed a potentially lethal combination of snow and wind, backed by temperatures up to 17 degrees Celsius below normal.

The system could dump as much as 30cm of snow on southern New England and to snarl the evening commutes of millions along the I-95 highway corridor from Boston to Washington, said Mr Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

"Behind this system is a lot of strong winds, (with) very cold, bitter temperatures, so this snow is going to be around for a while," said Mr Sullivan.

He warned that stranded travellers faced potential frostbite or worse. "That's the risk you take if you travel in this kind of weather," Mr Sullivan said.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers in Washington were ordered to stay home. City schools and offices also shut down, and the White House called off its Tuesday press briefing.

But the Supreme Court remained open to hear cases, and organisers of the annual anti-abortion March for Life said Wednesday's rally would go on regardless of weather.

FLIGHTS CANCELLED

About 3,000 airline flights in the US were cancelled, according to FlightAware.com, a tracking service. The bad weather left thousands of air travelers wondering when they were going to get home.

"I rushed to the airport, but (my flight) just got cancelled," said Mr Sumeet Kapoor, 24, a North Carolina State University graduate student who was on his way from Washington's Reagan National Airport to Raleigh, North Carolina.

"I actually had a class at 6, but I'm going to be late, I guess," he said.

Hours after he was sworn in to a second term, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency, as did Delaware Governor Jack Markell. Christie's inauguration party on Ellis Island in New York Harbor was cancelled because of the looming storm.

In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick postponed his annual state of the state address because of the weather.

State governments in Delaware and Maryland shut down and Connecticut sent nonessential state workers home beginning at 3pm (4am Singapore time). The Maryland Transit Administration cut back rail and bus services.

In Connecticut and Virginia, state officials warned residents not to travel if they did not have to.

Some schools in North Carolina closed early, and schools were shut across Virginia and West Virginia. Connecticut closed all its schools for Wednesday, and Hartford, the state capital, sent students home early on Tuesday.

At a gas station in Princeton, West Virginia, residents said they were stocking up on propane, food and other staples in case they lost power and had to weather the storm.

"The snow by itself isn't a threat. It's when it freezes after and weighs down the power lines that I get worried," said Mr Jim Mullins, who spent the day buying supplies.

Forecaster AccuWeather said the cold front would drop temperatures below freezing as far south as northern Florida.

While the polar front grips the eastern US, the western half will see above-average temperatures as a drought worsens, the National Weather Service said.

Mr Sullivan, the meteorologist, said the cold snap would be followed by two more polar fronts through the weekend. One would hit the Great Lakes region, and the other the upper Great Plains, he said.