WASHINGTON (AFP) - Another huge winter storm walloped Washington and surrounding areas on Monday, shutting schools and the federal government, snarling air traffic and blanketing roads in snow.
The bitter March blast was the latest in a succession of miserable weather events that have made this one of the harshest in recent memory for residents of the US East Coast.
In the capital, in a region that bore the brunt of the fierce system of freezing rain, sleet and blowing snow, cars and pedestrians were few and far between during the normally bustling lunch hour. Morning commutes were calm and windswept.
As a precaution, federal government employees were told to stay home and schools in the city and surrounding counties gave their students yet another snow day off.
Many colleges also closed shop for the day due to the conditions - including Georgetown University, where only emergency employees were required to report to work on time.
While the city's Metro was running on schedule, riders were scarce and bus service was suspended due to dangerous road conditions.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said a winter storm warning would remain in effect until 6 pm (3pm Singapore time) and that four to eight inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of snow were expected.
"Avoid travel unless it is an emergency," it warned. "If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle." With snow due to taper off by mid-afternoon, temperatures were not expected to rise above 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 degrees Celsius) with wind gusts of up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour.
Weather woes extended beyond the capital area, with the NWS reporting snow falling from the mid-Atlantic into the lower Mississippi River Valley.
In Baltimore and Philadelphia city offices opened with a two-hour delay.
The icy rain and snow caused headaches for air travelers, with Washington's Dulles International Airport tweeting that snowfall there had ended and at nearby Reagan National Airport.
"We are still working to reopen the airfield" at Reagan, it said.
Baltimore's BWI Marshall Airport said its snow removal team "remains hard at work this afternoon as airlines work to resume flights" which earlier in the day had been "very limited." FlightAware, which tracks airlines, reported more than 2,700 flight cancelations within, into or out of the United States for Monday.
Snow shutters museums
Tourists hoping to seek shelter in Washington's many free museums had to largely rethink their plans, with only the National Air and Space Museum welcoming visitors.
Another favorite for young and old alike, the National Zoo, was also closed for the day.
Despite the unfriendly chill, some Washingtonians - especially those who unexpectedly got a long weekend - were gearing up for some fun.
A snowball fight at the National Mall, the large esplanade in the heart of the city, was planned for the early afternoon. A similar event in late January drew more than 200 people, according to local media.
But this season's vicious winter weather took a toll on the car industry, with US car makers General Motors and Ford reporting chilled sales in February.