A life-threatening monster snowstorm has almost paralysed the entire US East Coast, leaving at least 16 people dead and prompting nearly 10 States to declare a state of emergency, media reports said on Sunday.
Thousands of people have been left powerless as the blizzard dumped between 15-25 inches of snow across the region.
At least 10 States declared a state of emergency and cities like New York City issued a travel ban for cars and stopped over ground metro services.
The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned drivers of non-emergency vehicles that they would be subject to arrest if they violated the travel ban.
"New Yorkers should head home now. We need cars off the road so that our equipment can do its work and keep streets passable for emergency vehicles. Travel conditions are dangerous, and we want to keep all New Yorkers safe until this storm passes," Blasio said.
Metro services in Washington DC have also been stopped over the weekend.
Ocean City in New Jersey reported coastal flooding as a result of the blizzard. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared a State of Emergency.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled and authorities across the East Coast have asked people to stay inside or at safe place.
Officials said it would take them several days to remove snow from the roads and to restore normalcy.
"This will be a rare event for the region as there are not many storms that bring a foot or more of snow over such a large area and last more than 24 hours," said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.
Police officials across the region said they responded to several thousand car accidents. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike about 500 vehicles were stranded, CNN reported.
The National Weather Service said a powerful low pressure system will bring heavy snow and blizzard conditions from the Middle Atlantic Region all the way through southern New England.
The heaviest snow is expected to fall over the Middle Atlantic Region including the Washington DC and Baltimore metro areas west to the Blue Ridge mountains. In addition, moderate coastal flooding is expected. The storm will taper off by Sunday, it said.
A travel ban was slapped on Sunday on New York and its suburbs, with authorities shutting roads and canceling rail service as a massive snow storm pummeling the US East Coast took aim at the Big Apple.
Road travel in the so-called downstate area of New York, Long Island and the lower Hudson valley was to begin at 2:30 pm, state Governor Andrew Cuomo announced.
Commuter trains connecting the suburbs to Manhattan were to be suspended from 4:00 pm, along with above-ground subway service. Bus service in New York has also been cut off.
"Public safety is job 1," Cuomo said on Twitter.
"This will very likely be one of the worst storms in City history. Go home. Stay home. Stay safe today," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.
Public transit in Washington was shut down for the weekend, as was most rail service in Philadelphia as the monster storm — dubbed "Snowzilla" — dumped mounds of snow along the US East Coast.
Up to two feet was expected in major cities.
The storm was expected to taper off overnight with officials to lift at 7:00 am Sunday (1200 GMT) a travel ban in New York — home to 8.4 million people — Long Island and on roads into New Jersey.
"You never like to disrupt transportation and commerce, however the storm was fast and furious," said New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. "This is a storm that is nothing to be trifled with," he added.
"We know that it is very rough outside," Washington mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters, "and in some cases, there have been reports of whiteout conditions for the past two hours. Visibility is extremely poor."
Strong winds raised concerns of flooding for a large portion of the East Coast, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned, with streets in some New Jersey coastal towns filled with water and ice.
In New York, bus service was suspended, and overland commuter and subway trains were shut as Broadway cancelled performances, museums closed and shops shuttered. Sports fixtures were also cancelled.
Metro and bus networks were shut down in Washington for the entire weekend, and largely shut in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Thousands of motorists were stranded for hours on highways further south.
The vast majority of flights were cancelled across much of the region, but authorities said they were working around the clock to restore operations Sunday, with the first arrivals and departures were expected at midday in New York.
Plows struggled to clear streets, where parked cars were buried under the snow and visibility deteriorated as night fell as howling winds created massive snow drifts. Reagan National and Dulles International airports in the US capital were expected to remain closed through Sunday.
The forecast suggests that the snow will end late Saturday or early Sunday in the Washington area, "but it doesn't make it any less dangerous," said mayor Bowser.
Officials warned the storm could exact more than $1 billion in damage -- but there was levity from Tian Tian, a panda at the National Zoo in Washington. Footage of the panda rolling in the snow quickly went viral.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that up to 28 inches of snow were forecast, making the storm one of the most severe in history and doubling the initial forecast as the storm became more ferocious.
"This is a storm that's packing a lot of punch, and is continuing very forcefully, and will do so into the evening," he said.
If the blizzard leaves more than two feet in Washington, it would 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.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican presidential contender, left the campaign trail to oversee the emergency response in his snowbound state, where he said there were 90,000 power outages.
"For folks who lose power, please, given how cold the weather is, try to go and shelter in the home of a friend or family member if you can. Don't stay in the cold," he told a news conference.
Nearly 120,000 power outages were reported in North Carolina, emergency officials said.
In Washington, the national monuments, Capitol building and Smithsonian museums were all closed.
Even a massive snowball fight in Washington's Dupont Circle, which 3,000 people said on Facebook they would attend, was postponed until Sunday due to the storm's ferocity.
"We just came back from some holidays in India so the weather is a difficult adjustment," said Justin Wilcox, 32, out taking selfies in the capital.
Snow and sleet also hit the southern states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia -- unusual for the region.
Six people were killed in road accidents in North Carolina, three people died after shoveling snow in New York, and deaths were also reported in Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia, officials said.
With inputs from PTI and AFP
Published Date: Jan 24, 2016 12:40 PM | Updated Date: Jan 24, 2016 12:40 PM