Monster blizzard paralyses eastern, southern US with snow

WASHINGTON: A blizzard with gale-force winds paralysed the southern and eastern United States on Saturday, dumping snow as millions hunkered down at home, hoping their food supplies would last and the power won't go out. Seven states declared a state of emergency, nine people were reported killed in accidents and more than two feet (60 centimetres) of snow was predicted for Washington alone.

Power outages were already hitting 40,000 customers in New Jersey on Saturday and more than 8,000 in Virginia. About 1,000 traffic crashes and another 800 disabled vehicles were reported in Virginia, even as authorities warned people to stay off the roads. New Jersey Transit temporarily shut down all of its services and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority halted all trains around Philadelphia.

Washington's subway system shut down entirely Friday night and will remain closed through Sunday. About 1,000 track workers are being deployed to keep New York City's subway system moving and 79 trains have "scraper shoes" to reduce the icing on the rails.

The federal government closed its offices at noon Friday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would hunker down at the White House. The US Capitol Police said sledding on Capitol Hill, which only recently became legal, would be welcome for the first time in decades.

In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses reminded Catholics that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse for missing Sunday Mass.

Some people, however, were riding out the storm better than others. Passengers on a cruise ship heading back to snowy Baltimore from the Bahamas will get one more day at sea after the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship decided to land Monday instead of Sunday.

"I was not totally surprised and, frankly, happy to be delayed," said passenger Meg Ryan of Hamilton, New Jersey. "First, it is an extra day of vacation. But more importantly, safety comes first and travel Sunday would be difficult, if not impossible."

And the snowstorm was greeted happily at Virginia's ski resorts.

"We're thrilled," said Hank Thiess, general manager at Wintergreen ski resort in central Virginia, who is expected 40 inches (102 centimeters) of snow. "We're set up to have just a terrific second half of the ski season."