Winter Storm Pounds East Coast, Possible Blizzard for Some Cities

Washington D.C. and Baltimore could see two feet of snow, causing headaches.

February 5, 2010, 12:03 PM

Feb. 5, 2010— -- A massive winter storm is moving up the East Coast, threatening to bring up to 2 feet of snow to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore and pound the rest of the region with plenty of winter weather and headaches.

On the edge of the storm, freezing rain will create dangerous and slow-going driving conditions. At the heart, the blizzard -like conditions will make travel virtually impossible.

"I don't know if it's going to go down in the record books but it will be very significant," said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Camp Spring, Md. "Travel tonight and tomorrow will be absolutely treacherous."

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In the hardest-hit areas around Washington and Baltimore, Terry said the roads simply "will be impassable."

In Baltimore, weather forecasters are watching to see if the record snowfall of 28.2 inches set over Feb. 16-18, 2003 will be shattered.

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency and warned residents to prepare emergency kits, stay off roads and prepare for power outages.

"It's certainly not unusual, we're still in the beginning of February. We're still kind of in the heart of winter," Terry said. "The pattern we are in this year with an El Nino is a lot of storms coming across the southern region."

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Airlines have canceled flights in anticipation of the storm and Amtrak canceled train service south of Washington. Luckily, this is not a giant travel weekend and the worst of the storm is expected to hit over the weekend when most people don't have to commute to work or school.

The hardest hit regions will be eastern West Virginia, northern and central Virginia, most of Maryland, Delaware and the southern parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Terry said. The storm, which is working its way from the south to the north, will weaken as it reaches New York City, which he said should get 3 to 5 inches of snow. Philadelphia will get 8 to 12 inches of snow, he added, and "by the time the storm gets to Boston it won't really be anything."

Parts of Indiana will see 6 to 8 inches of snow and Ohio will see 6 to 10 inches. Blowing Rock, N.C. already had 8 inches this morning. Blizzard warnings have been issues for parts of New Jersey and Delaware.

"It will snow through much of the daylight hours Saturday," Terry said, with the worst ending by nightfall.

Delta canceled 230 flights on the east coast and doesn't plan any flights in or out of the Washington area on Saturday, resuming service again Sunday morning. Southwest canceled all flights out of Dulles, Baltimore-Washington International and Philadelphia airports through Sunday morning.

US Airways canceled 592 flights system-wide out of 3,100 scheduled flights today. For Saturday, the airline plans to cancel another 529. JetBlue has canceled all flights, about 32 roundtrips, in and out of BWI, Dulles and Richmond, Va.

United canceled 225 flights on the east coast Saturday and American cancelled 145 flights Friday with plans not to operate any flights to the three Washington-area airports Saturday. American also plans to start flying again Sunday. Continental has cancelled flights in and out of the three Washington airports and Philadelphia from 2 p.m. Friday through Saturday. That's about 20 mainline flights.

School Closings

Many in the Washington area have already taken preemptive actions to deal with the storm, although some -- including President Obama -- questioned the efforts.

Sidwell Friends School closed today in anticipation of the storm. The president's two daughters attend the school, and he wasn't too impressed with their snow policy.

"My children's school was canceled today, because of what?" Obama said, "Some ice?"

It's not the first time the longtime Chicago resident has criticized the district's snow removal, saying shortly after taking office that the people in Washington just don't seem to be able to handle the snow and needed a little Chicago toughness.

Most airlines have already canceled flights starting mid-afternoon and some don't plan to start flying again until Sunday.

Elisabeth Stein, who works for the federal government in Washington, D.C., was planning to see friends in Detroit but unfortunately Mother Nature intervened.

"I was looking forward to spending time with my friends, but now will be spending the next few days at home watching television and reading some good books," Stein said.

Her flight, like hundreds of others, was canceled. At least she got her money back.

Most major airlines are giving customers the option to change their flights without a penalty, but that's little relief to flyers who want to get in the air this weekend.

Flight Changes Could Cost Passengers

Changing flights still could cost passengers, as airlines will charge passengers the difference in ticket prices between their original flights and the new fares. Last-minute fares are often significantly higher than those booked weeks in advance.

Delta, for instance, is allowing travelers flying to, from or through Washington D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia on Friday or Saturday to make a one-time change to their travel schedule without fees, but they must still pay the fare difference.

Delta is proactively reducing flight schedules to and from affected airports to minimize delays during the storm. However, customers may wish to consider postponing or rerouting their trips without penalty to avoid possible inconvenience. Travel for changed itineraries must begin by Monday. Customers whose flights are cancelled may request refunds.

Continental is offering a similar policy to anybody traveling through affected airports through Sunday, including the airline's hub at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.

Amtrak is not providing alternate transportation for the canceled service south from Washington D.C. for Friday. The one exception are trains between New York and Miami, which will operate normally.

For Saturday, Amtrak is limiting its Carolinian trains 79 and 80 to service only between Raleigh and Charlotte. There will be no service between New York and Raleigh. Palmetto trains 89 and 90 are canceled in their entirety between New York and Savannah. Several trains between New York and Washington or Virginia have also been canceled. The Auto Train is canceled in its entirety between Lorton, Va. and Sanford, Fla.

With reports from ABC News' Matt Hosford

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