The last time an "epic" blizzard was supposed to slam New York City almost exactly one year ago, it ended up being an even more epic dud. This time, however, winter storm Jonas was no false alarm as millions of Americans across the Eastern Seaboard woke up this morning to as much as two feet of snow, flooding, blocked roads, no electricity, strong winds, or all of the above.
The storm is expected to affect about 85 million Americans, one quarter of the US population according to AFP. Before it's all over, it could cause more than $1 billion in damage, NWS officials said. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie left the campaign trail in New Hampshire to oversee the emergency response in his snowbound state.
According to the latest NWS forecast, up to 30 inches of snow may fall in NYC:
As previewed before, a "historic", "potentially epic winter blockbuster" has hit the eastern seabord, with forecasters now predicting the blizzard could dump more than two feet of snow in Washington, DC and the surrounding area by late Saturday, while a foot or more may fall as far north as New York City, according to Wunderground, leaving residents holed up indoors.
If the blizzard leaves as much snow in Washington as forecast, it could surpass a record set in 1922 by a storm that dumped 28 inches over three days and killed 100 people after a roof collapsed at a theater.
According to AFP, eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday, while over 6,000 thousand flights have been canceled because of the storm. Officials in Washington took the unusual step of closing down the city's rail and bus system from Friday night until Monday morning. Metrorail, the second busiest underground train network in the United States after New York. serves about 700,000 customers a day in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
According to the AP live blog, snow accumulations have already passed a foot in much of the East Coast. Officials say there are pockets of stranded motorists in the westbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel in Somerset County, and the National Guard has been called out.
In Silver Spring, Maryland, about 20 inches of snow was measured outside by daybreak. Lightning flashed and thundersnow rumbled after 6 a.m. Thick snow continued to fall steadily in light wind.
Plows cleared the snow from a heavily traveled road. Ambulances and trucks were able to get through, but few other vehicles were moving. A couple intrepid people walked along the cleared portion of the road, ducking into the deeper snow when vehicles approached.
Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo tells The Associated Press that he is aware of some of pockets of traffic, two to three miles in length, stuck on the turnpike in the western part of the state. He says some travelers were stuck overnight.
Virginia State Police say they responded to nearly 1,000 traffic crashes as a fearsome storm blanketed the state with snow. From midnight through 10 p.m. Friday, troopers responded to 989 crashes and 793 disabled vehicles. All told, state police dispatch centers fielded 3,471 calls during that period.
It is not just the snow, however, as several southern states, meanwhile, were also hit by snow and sleet with tens of thousands without power.
In Kentucky, thousands of motorists became stranded overnight on a backup along a 35 mile (56 kilometer) ice-slickened stretch of Interstate 75, and remained trapped on the road early Saturday.
All along the east coast, frantic shoppers emptied grocery store shelves in preparation for the storm, dubbed "Snowzilla" by some US media, and schools and government offices in Washington were all closed.
"I think it's going to be a disaster," Sharonda Brown, a nurse, said as she waited for an Uber car with a full cart of groceries at a Washington supermarket stormed by shoppers.
"With the increasing winds and increasing snow accumulation, now we're going to see more and more people stranded," she told CNN.
Along the east coast, strong winds and sleet have also resulted in areas of strong flooding. The storm is pounding the New Jersey and Delaware shorelines with 22-foot waves and a 3 to 5-foot storm surge that sent water levels to near all-time highs in some locations on Saturday morning.
The New Jersey state police reported Route 30 in Atlantic City has closed due to tidal flooding, as has the George Redding Bridge between Cape May and Middle Township.
As Mashwable reports, areas were experiencing coastal flooding around the time of high tide in the early hours of Saturday morning. Some residents along the coast described the strong winds outside as sounding like a freight train passing outside their windows. A wind gust to hurricane force, or 75 miles per hour, was recorded in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, where waves higher than 20 feet and a high astronomical high tide raised water levels to near record heights.
The storm surge on Saturday morning beat the level seen during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, though Lewes did not experience the brunt of that storm's surge since the storm made landfall to the north of the area.
As a result, tens of thousands are without power along the New Jersey coast.
For all the latest developments we recommend the AP live "Snowzilla" live blog.
The good news is that both the snowfall and blizard should end some time tonight. For now, however, enjoy these photos courtesy of the Daily News showing the northeast in all its blizzard glory.
New York City, NY: A man shovels snow from the sidewalk on the corner of W. 90th Street and Columbus Avenue on Saturday morning
New York City, NY: A NYC transit worker shovels snow from a subway platform on Saturday morning
Atlantic City, NJ: One brave man pushes his cart full of passengers along the Atlantic City Boardwalk during a snowstorm early Saturday morning
Atlantic City, NJ: A tractor-trailer rig rumbles along the Atlantic City Expressway during a fierce snowstorm on Friday night.
New York City, NY. A woman dances and twirls around in Times Square as she celebrates the start of the snowfall very early Saturday morning.
Washington, D.C. U.S. Secret Service Agents stand guard outside the White House during a snowstorm in downtown Washington, D.C. on January 22.
Washington, D.C.: A homeless woman tries to warm herself near a steam grate on Constitution Ave. in Washington, D.C.
Hanover, MD: Grace Sylvester scans the departures and arrivals board near the Southwest ticketing area at the airport in Hanover, MD. Over 6,000 flights have been cancelled nationwide.
Atlanta, GA: A pedestrian walks through snow flurries in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, Friday night. Northeast Georgia got 4 to 6 inches of snow Friday.
Washington, DC: A group of nuns visiting Washington, D.C. from their convent in Chicago walk in the early snow from a major blizzard outside the U.S. Capitol
Roanoke, VA: Snow collects on parked cars in Old Southwest Roanoke, Virginia on Jan. 22, 2016. Side streets were packed with unmoved cars while the streets remained relatively empty.
Nashville, TN: Snow slows down traffic on Interstate 40, Friday morning on Jan. 22, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee
West Virginia: Aaron Gordon, third from right, Green Cochran and Derrick Jenkins, help push Stephanie Taylor's vehicle into the KFC parking lot after getting stuck in the snow along Robert C. Byrd Drive on Jan 22, 2016
NOAA Satllite Image: This NOAA satellite image taken on Jan. 22, 2016 at 12:45 p.m. EST, shows a large strengthening winter storm system that is moving across the southeastern United States.
Orange County, NC: Snow plows and traffic make their way south along Interstate 40 in Durham and Orange county in N.C. on Jan. 22, 2016
Alexandria, VA: A customer looks at the heavily depleted meat section of a grocery store, as shoppers prepare for an approaching snowstorm
Alexandria, VA: Only a small selection of bread is left on these shelves as a shopper in Alexandria, Virginia, prepares for the blizzard
Roanoke, VA: A snow plow truck makes its way down Electric Road in southwest Roanoke County past Tanglewood Mall on Friday morning on Jan. 22, 2016, in Roanoke, Virginia.
— BOSTON™ (@BoucherMitch) January 23, 2016