Feb. 9, 2010— -- Just as Washington, D.C., and other cities in the mid-Atlantic region dig out from a nasty storm over the weekend, Mother Nature returns with a fury, threatening to dump another foot of snow on some parts of the country.
Unlike the weekend storm which just hit a small pocket of the country -- although it hit it hard -- this storm threatens to leave heavy snows across several states. Chicago, New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia will all see significant accumulations as will the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and southern New England, according to the National Weather Service.
The Federal government was shut down Monday and Tuesday, and New York City public schools have already canceled Wednesday classes.
"It's just what Mother Nature is doing this year," said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Spring, Md. "There is really no rhyme or reason to it."
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Baltimore, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey are forecast to get the most from this storm, up to 18 inches in some places, according to Korty. There's a wide path from Washington, through New York City, across Long Island and up through Connecticut and Rhode Island that will see the brunt of the storm.
"You're talking 10 to 18 inches of snow along that corridor," Korty said.
Ohio could see 4 to 8 inches of snow, and the Tennessee valley could see up to 10 inches. Chicago will probably see "a few" inches, but nothing like the east coast.
For New York, which has had a pretty dry winter, Korty said this will be "one of the bigger storms of the year."
No blizzard warnings have yet been issued, but Korty said this storm will really intensify with time and that visibility will probably be cut to below a quarter mile, the definition of a blizzard. He expects more wind with this storm that the past one.
"There is the potential," he said, "for blizzard-like conditions."
For travelers, this storm threatens to bring plenty of headaches with roads blanketed in snow and airlines preemptively canceling hundreds of flights.
"It's going to be a freaking nightmare," Korty said of travel in the mid-Atlantic states. "I live in the Washington area and I can tell you right now that a lot of the local roads haven't been touched yet. And the ones that have been are still snow covered, and I'm not talking like an inch of snow, I'm talking about 5 to 6 inches of snow in spots. This is just going to add to the misery."
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Operations at Washington's three airports had just started to return to normal after the weekend's storm. Dulles International Airport didn't open up a third runway until 4 p.m. on Monday. Crews there are now dumping all the excess snow at different parts of the airfield and melting it. But the equipment and crews have been working non-stop since the weekend and need a break.
Mid-Atlantic Storm Brings Flight Delays, Cancellations
Power companies scrambled to restore electricity to homes before the next wave of snow arrives. Monday night, there were still about 20,000 customers without power in Maryland's Montgomery County, which includes Bethesda, Rockville and Potomac. There were also pockets of Virginia still without electricity.
Many tree branches and power lines are already covered in heavy snow. This storm could push them to break, creating new outages.
Amtrak, which had also just gotten rail operations back to normal, may have to reduce service on some lines.
"The best recommendation I can make is that once this thing starts, stay home until the plows come back," Korty said.
In Virginia alone, the state police responded to 1,921 traffic crashes and 2,098 disabled vehicles during the three-day period of the last storm. Troopers there are already gearing up for this storm.
At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, airlines preemptively canceled more than 600 flights Monday night into Tuesday morning, according to Gregg Cunningham, a spokesman for Chicago's Department of Aviation. Across town, at Midway International Airport, Southwest Airlines canceled all flights beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday through 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Given the conditions in Chicago, flight tracking company FlightAware said that United Airlines and American Airlines -- both of which operate major hubs there -- are going to face the challenge of preventing the delays and cancellations in Chicago from affecting their worldwide system. As the storm moves closer to New York, Continental Airlines could be similarly impacted at its hub in New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport.
Most major airlines offered customers the option to change their flights without a penalty, but that's little relief to flyers who want to get home.
Changing flights still could cost passengers, as airlines charge passengers the difference in ticket prices between their original fares and the new fares. Last-minute fares are often significantly higher than those booked weeks in advance.
American Airlines began canceling flights from Washington's three airports, starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and doesn't plan to resume flights until midday Thursday. Those airports handle more than 2,000 arrivals and departures a day for most major airlines.
The main airline operating out of Newark, Continental, plans to stop operations Wednesday, canceling 800 mainline flights and hundreds of others on regional carriers.
The situation in Philadelphia isn't much better. US Airways and Southwest will both cease all operations at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Southwest doesn't plan to restart Philadelphia flights until Thursday morning, while US Airways is hoping to get some flights going by Wednesday afternoon. American also canceled Philadelphia service until mid-day Thursday.
Up in Boston, which is forecast to get anywhere from 3 inches to 10 inches of snow, airport officials remain optimistic, touting their advanced snow-removal equipment. Logan International Airport employs massive 68-foot machines that use 27-foot plows, high speed brooms and blowers to clear snow. By lining up nine of those machines the airport can clear a 10,000 foot runway in 10 minutes. But heavy snowfall could still present problems, as any accumulation above 2 inches per hour makes it tough to keep up.
With reports from ABC News' Lisa Stark