US & Canada

Blizzard blankets eastern seaboard of US in deep snow

Media captionThe BBC's Laura Bicker reports on the snowstorm sweeping the US

A huge blizzard has blanketed the US eastern seaboard in snow, bringing New York and Washington DC to a standstill and affecting some 85 million people.

Up to 40in (102cm) of snow settled in parts, paralysing rail and air links, and cutting power to 200,000 people.

A travel ban in New York, which saw its second highest snowfall on record, is set to be lifted later on Sunday.

At least 18 deaths, from road accidents but also snow shovelling, have been blamed on the weather since Friday.

The blizzard is now lessening and heading out towards the Atlantic Ocean.

In pictures: #snowmageddon2016

What to do if it all goes wrong

Why do so many people die shovelling snow?

In other developments

  • Washington DC's two main airports, Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International, are likely to remain closed on Sunday, officials said
  • Some airlines are considering restarting limited service at New York-area airports
  • Flood waters rose in New Jersey and elsewhere along the Atlantic coast

States of emergency were declared in New York, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia

Traffic jams lasting more than 12 hours were reported in Kentucky and Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The heaviest unofficial snowfalls recorded by mid-afternoon on Saturday included

  • 40in (102cm) - Berkeley County, West Virginia
  • 35.5in - Morgan County, West Virginia
  • 34in - Washington County, Maryland

New York's Central Park received 26.8in, the second-biggest fall recorded since 1869 and just shy of the all-time high, 26.9in, recorded in February 2006.

"This is going to be one of those generational events, where your parents talk about how bad it was," said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics.

Under travel restrictions in the most populous US city, transport was suspended and bridges shut.

Emergency vehicles and workers carrying out repairs are being allowed to use roads but those driving non-essential vehicles risk being arrested.

Media captionTimelapse footage shows snow falling on the White House
Media captionA look at the snowy scenes in several US states

Five out of six deaths attributed to the snowstorm were of people shovelling snow in New York city or state, the New York Times reports. The sixth was recorded in Maryland.

On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, two university sports teams whose buses were marooned with some 500 other vehicles had to turn and head home.

Further south in Kentucky, a 35-mile (56km) traffic jam cleared after thousands of drivers found themselves stranded on Interstate 75 by heavy snow and a number of accidents.

The Red Cross erected shelters along the highway for those left in the traffic jam.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Only essential vehicles have been allowed to use New York's roads
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many residents across the eastern US had to shovel their way through piles of snow
Image copyright AP
Image caption This Secret Service officer stationed outside the White House took all precautions against the snow
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Parts of Washington DC have become impassable
Image copyright University of Mary
Image caption Students from the University of Mary in North Dakota were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The US federal government closed down at noon on Friday. President Barack Obama is remaining at the White House.

Andrew Watson, who moved to Virginia for work about six months ago, told the BBC's News Channel that travel was restricted but families were enjoying the snow.

"The roads are now impassable and where we live it's pretty much a driving town so it's hard to get anywhere right now," he said.

"We've been told not to take to the roads, which is smart because the roads aren't gritted at all so they're very treacherous. I mean everyone's making light of it and having fun. The street we're living on the kids are playing out in the street now and having a great time."

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption US astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a picture of the snowstorm from the International Space Station
Image copyright Twitter/@BBCJonSopel
Image caption Back on planet Earth, this was the view facing the BBC's North America editor
Image copyright Dana Foley
Image caption "Just enjoying the snow and hoping to keep power and remain warm!" wrote Dana Foley in Washington DC
Image copyright gaholder81
Image caption "We still have power....for now", Instagram user gaholder81 told the BBC from Washington DC
Media captionPanda in snow

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