WASHINGTON — A band of frigid weather was snaking up the East Coast on Sunday, promising blizzards and a foot of snow for New York City and New England, while several states made emergency declarations as the storm caused crashes on slick roads.
Airlines grounded hundreds of flights Sunday along the Northeast corridor in anticipation of the storm, affecting major airports including New York's JFK and Newark. Airlines said more cancellations were likely as the storm progressed. Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, where a rare white Christmas came with reports of dozens of car crashes.
In Washington transportation officials pretreated roads and readied 200 salt trucks, plows and other pieces of equipment to fight the 6 inches or more expected to fall in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Northeast is expected to get the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for Sunday and Monday, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times. A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.
As much as 18 inches could fall on the New Jersey shore with wind gusts over 40 mph.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency as of 2 p.m. Sunday, and he urged residents to stay off the roads.
By early Sunday, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina had also declared states of emergency. Amtrak canceled several of its trains in Virginia.
At Washington's Reagan National Airport on Sunday morning, travelers were relieved to have arrived - or to be getting out - before the expected snowfall.
Kim Brightwell and her kids Kyle and Jenna said they were on track to fly to Orlando for a family trip before the snow hit. So far, so good, Kim Brightwell said - but she added, "We're not there yet."
Major airlines were canceling flights in the storm's path Sunday. Continental Airlines canceled 250 departures from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York City. United Airlines canceled dozens of departures from Newark, Philadelphia, New York's LaGuardia and JFK, Boston and other airports. AirTran and Southwest Airlines also canceled flights, mostly in or out of Washington Dulles, Baltimore and Newark.
Delta Air Lines spokesman Kent Landers said the airline proactively canceled about 850 mainline and regional flights systemwide.
"Most cancelations are concentrated from the Carolinas through New York," he said.
Mary Sanderson at American Airlines said flights through Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia would likely be canceled after 2 or 3 p.m. Sunday, with late starts expected Monday morning.
In London, Heathrow Airport was open Sunday, but warned on its website of flight cancellations and delays due to bad weather in the U.S. Fifteen British Airways flights out of Heathrow to the U.S. were canceled, including ones to New York's JFK airport, Newark, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Dulles airport.
In Paris, five flights leaving for JFK from Charles de Gaulle airport were canceled Sunday, along with three flights to Newark and one bound for Philadelphia.
Most carriers were waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urging passengers to make changes through their websites.
The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast that will strengthen into a major storm as it moves northeast, according to the National Weather Service.
Early Sunday, winter storm warnings stretched from Georgia through New England.
The white Christmas in the South was one for the record books. Columbia, S.C., had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch of snow - the first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since the 1880s.
Alabama state troopers said a man was killed Christmas day when the pickup truck he was driving collided with another truck on a snowy patch of U.S. 278.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol said late Saturday that most of the roads in and around Asheville were either covered or partially covered with snow and ice. Emergency management spokeswoman Julia Jarema said troopers in the two dozen westernmost counties answered 350 calls in 18 hours Saturday. Most were wrecks.
"We're busy," Ryan Dean of Dean's Wrecker Service in Raleigh, NC, said Sunday. "We've been out since 3 in the morning pulling people out of the ditch."
In central North Carolina's Wake County, Thomas Allen said his one-vehicle transportation service for seniors and people with disabilities was snowed in.
The National Weather Service said 8.5 inches of snow fell in Franklinton, N.C., about 30 miles north of Raleigh from Saturday through Sunday.
Diane Smith, 55, said her power was out for about four hours there Sunday morning, but she and her husband have a generator. Relatives, including two grandchildren, who live nearby came over for breakfast and to get warm before going home after power was restored.
"It's beautiful," Smith said. "As long as I have power, I love it."
"I've had several calls this morning wanting to know if I can get out, but there's just no way," he said.
Pam Palmer, mayor of Adamsville, a community of 5,000 people just west of Birmingham, Ala., said a laggard snowband from the tail-end of the storm was making roads slippery and dangerous Sunday. She told AP she was urging motorists to stay off the roads.
"The interstates are very slippery. We have had a couple of accidents here in Adamsville," she said.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kristin M. Hall in Nashville; Page Ivey in Columbia; Karen Hawkins in Chicago; Warren Levinson and Verena Dobnik in New York City; David Goodman in Detroit; Eileen Sullivan and Samantha Bomkamp in Washington; Michelle Price in Phoenix; Dylan Lovan in Louisville; Leonard Pallats and Greg Bluestein in Atlanta; and Mark Pratt in Boston.
Storm bears down on the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic
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