New York City hit by blizzard roaring up the east coast AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Jan 23, 2016 9:47 AM

FIRST ALERT: Blizzard warning

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Millions of people awoke Saturday to heavy snow outside their doorsteps, strong winds that threatened to increase through the weekend, and largely empty roads as residents from the South to the Northeast heeded warnings to hunker down inside while a mammoth storm barreled across a large swath of the country.

The worst of the blizzard was yet to come, with strong winds and heavy snow expected to produce "life-threatening blizzard conditions" throughout Saturday, according to the National Weather Service's website. Forecasters also predicted up to a half-inch of ice accumulation in the Carolinas, and potentially serious coastal flooding in the mid-Atlantic.

Snow had started falling Friday, and Kentucky felt quite a brunt from that, with 18 inches in some areas. Drivers who opted to take to the roads were stranded on a long stretch of Interstate 75 south of Lexington because of a string of crashes and blowing snow, state police and witnesses said. The road was closed overnight, but reopened early Saturday morning, with traffic moving slowly, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for Kentucky Emergency Management. It was unclear how many were stuck. Crews had been making wellness checks; passing out snacks, fuel and water; and trying to move cars one by one. Some had been stranded since Friday afternoon, and emergency shelters had opened.

Motorists also were reported stranded along pockets of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel in Somerset County. The National Guard was called to help. Some travelers were stuck overnight, said Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo.

In the Washington, D.C., metro area, nearly two feet of snow was measured on the ground Saturday morning. In Silver Spring, Maryland, about 20 inches of snow was outside by daybreak. Lightning flashed, and thundersnow rumbled. Plows cleared 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.

According to the National Weather Service's website early Saturday, 18 inches of snow already had fallen on Ulysses in eastern Kentucky, while 16 inches fell in Beattyville. Between 14 inches to 15.5 inches had fallen in at other locations across Kentucky, including Frenchburg, Mount Vernon, Eglon and Lancer.

Other states that recorded snowfall amounts greater than 6 inches included Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Various locations in Georgia and Alabama received between 1 and 3.5 inches of snow.

In New Jersey, 40,000 people were without power early Saturday, most of them along the coast.


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