WASHINGTON – The U.S. capital shut down on Wednesday ahead of a fierce snowstorm that had blanketed the Midwest, cut power to about 50,000 homes and businesses and forced hundreds of flights to be canceled.
Jokingly referred to as “snowquestration” in a nod to the federal budget crunch, the wintry weather prompted storm warnings for much of the Ohio River Valley and the mid-Atlantic states and as far south as Georgia as the storm moved east, the National Weather Service said.
The Washington area could get slammed by its biggest snowfall in about two years, with 6 to 12 inches expected, the service said.
The government, already hit by $85 billion in budget cuts that took effect last Friday, ordered 375,000 federal workers in the Washington area to stay home. Many businesses and institutions also closed, including the International Monetary Fund.
Major school districts in the region shut down ahead of the storm, which is packing winds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 km per hour).
In the Appalachian foothills, heavy snow began overnight at Charlottesville, Virginia, and left more than 1 foot on the ground by morning. Schools were closed and roads were mostly empty.
“We’ve had about four snow warnings this season, but this is the first time it’s actually happened,” said Lucy Rucker, 70, a retiree whose power was knocked out by morning.
“We’ll be spending the day indoors, I guess,” she said.
Airlines canceled some 1,900 flights, including about 700 at Washington’s Reagan, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International airports. About 1,700 flights were canceled on Tuesday as the storm moved across the north-central United States. (Reuters)