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Massive snowstorm barrels up US East coast

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 09:29 IST

Residents from Maryland to Maine braced for freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls on Monday as a fierce storm barreled up the East coast of the United States after dousing the south with a rare snow cover.

More than one foot (30 centimeters) of snow was possible in some northern states, the National Weather Service said as the winter storm began to unleash its furor on the upper portion of the country late Sunday.

New York City residents stocked up on groceries while city officials deployed extra snowplows and salt trucks to fend off the snowpiles, which were expected to hit a height of up to 14 inches (36 centimeters) by daybreak.

"It's the first of March, which you know is the month that we say comes in like a lion and out like a lamb," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters.

Sanitation commissioner John Doherty warned that the city should expect "the largest snowstorm we've seen in this year" and predicted "a difficult morning for public transportation," according to NY1 television.

Washington mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency in the nation's capital on Sunday afternoon, hours before snowflakes began to fall. Widespread school closings and delays were anticipated for on Monday.

Officials told The Washington Post that the storm, expected to drop up to 10 inches (25 centimeters), could be the largest in three years.

The heaviest snow in the region was forecast for Massachusetts, Rhode Island and northeastern Connecticut, with up to 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Philadelphia was also under a snow emergency as of 6 pm (2300 GMT) and residents were advised to expect up to 14 inches (36 centimeters).

Commuters should prepare to wake up to "quite a bit of snow on the ground in the morning and a rough commute," weather service meteorologist Valerie Meola told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

She also warned that high wind speeds of 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour could result in steep snow drifts.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley urged drivers to stay off the roads due to "what could be a pretty major snow event," according to The Baltimore Sun.

"There is a heavy band of snow that is literally driving right up [Interstate] 95," he said. "Drifting could continue, with high winds, for the next couple days."

The late-winter snowflakes took the usually temperate south by surprise. Snowplows struggled to clear the clogged roads, airlines canceled flights and accidents spiked among motorists unaccustomed to the slick, icy conditions.

Up to 18.5 inches (47 centimeters) of snow fell on parts of Tennessee since late Saturday, and up to 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) accumulated in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.

The conditions led to a number of crashes overnight on Saturday along the I-40, a major highway route in western Tennessee, and on I-75 in the eastern part of the state close to the Kentucky state line, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

After canceling hundreds of flights in the southern United States on Sunday, Delta warned of more flight cuts in the northeast on Monday.

The airline was "proactively thinning flight schedules to and from airports in the affected states to ensure delays are minimized during the storm," it said in a statement.

Delta urged travelers to "consider postponing or rerouting their trip without penalty to avoid possible inconvenience."