WASHINGTON/NEW YORK An expansive winter storm bore down on the U.S. East Coast on Monday, scuttling almost 1,400 flights and threatening a treacherous wet commute on Tuesday after the holiday weekend.
As much as 5 inches (13 cm) of snow were expected to blanket Washington by nightfall, with less accumulation in New York City, before turning to freezing rain and then rain amid rising temperatures, National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke said.
"It could be pretty tricky for the morning commute on Tuesday," he said.
The New York City Emergency Management Department issued a travel advisory for Monday and Tuesday, warning residents about potentially slick roads and possible coastal flooding.
After record-breaking cold intensified by gusting winds gripped the U.S. Northeast over the Presidents Day holiday weekend, temperatures on Tuesday were predicted to rise as high as 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) in New York and 53 degrees (12 C) in Washington. The milder temperatures were expected to stretch into the upcoming weekend.
"This system pushes the Arctic air out of here," Burke added.
By mid-afternoon on Monday, almost 1,400 U.S. flights were cancelled, mostly at Washington, North Carolina and New York-area airports, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com. Many airlines waived change fees as more flights were scrapped.
Washington's streets were nearly empty due to the holiday as well as the snow falling in heavy, wet flakes. Neil Emery, 54, a tourist from Nassau, Bahamas, said he, his wife and daughter had been shocked by the bitter cold but were revelling in the snowfall.
"It's very Christmasy, really," he said. The cold weather "is a good excuse for hot chocolates through the day."
On the southern edge of the cold front, Mississippi was hit by heavy rain and at least one tornado, which downed trees and damaged a high school in Wesson, Mississippi, said National Weather Service forecaster Anna Wolverton.
Tornado watches were in place in Alabama and Louisiana. Heavy rains also drenched Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
The vast storm stretched to western parts of Pennsylvania and New York, where Buffalo was expected to get more than 12 inches of snow.
New England ski resorts, struggling through a relatively warm and snowless winter, may receive up to 5 inches of snow, meteorologist Burke said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Ian Simpson in Washington; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Dan Grebler and G Crosse)
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