Winter storm bears down on US east coast

Weather forecasters predict a significant winter storm from the Mid-Atlantic through New England, including high winds and heavy snowfall. Hundreds of airline flights have been canceled.

John Coutlakis/The Asheville Citizen-Times/AP
A man tries unsuccessfully to keep his car from sliding into another vehicle in Asheville, N.C. on Christmas Day. Much of the US East Coast, including North Carolina, is under a winter storm warning.
Chris Richardson/Staff
A scene in Concord, Mass., on Sunday. A winter storm is expected to hit the East coast with part of New England anticipating almost two feet of snow.

If you were dreaming of a white Christmas holiday and you live along the US East Coast, you might just get your wish today. So if you don't need to travel or be at work, best to settle in at home with a hot cup of cocoa and those reruns of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Weather forecasters predict a significant winter storm from the Mid-Atlantic through New England. Or as the National Weather Service puts it, "An intensifying low pressure system is forecast to move northward along the US East Coast, bringing significant snowfall from the Mid-Atlantic through New England."

That means light snow and wet roads turning icy in Georgia, a winter storm warning from South Carolina northward, up to blizzard conditions in New England.

Look for heavy snow and strong winds in the northeast beginning Sunday evening, according to the Weather Channel, with "the heaviest snows and strongest winds ... expected to impact areas from New Jersey to Southern New England by overnight tonight with blizzard or near-blizzard conditions expected in some areas."

"The Northeast is expected to get the brunt of the storm," reports the Associated Press. "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."

As the storm approaches, air travelers have been forced to make alternate plans.

Continental Airlines has canceled 250 departures from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York City. United Airlines canceled dozens of Sunday 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 Airlines has canceled hundreds of flights, and American Airlines is anticipating many flight cancellations as well.

More cancellations are expected. Most carriers were waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urging passengers to make changes through their websites, according to the AP.

Amtrak has canceled some trains in Virginia.

Weather Channel meteorologists make this prediction:

"Sunday afternoon and evening, snow will intensify in southern New England. At this time, the period of heaviest snow appears to fall in the NYC metro area late Sunday afternoon and evening, and in the Boston metro area Sunday night. Expect maximum travel impact during these times!

"Strong, gusty winds will also crank up, making for poor visibilities and dangerous travel conditions, particularly from New Jersey into coastal New England late Sunday into Monday. Blizzard warnings have been issued from New York City and Long Island northeastward along the southern Connecticut coast to the Providence and Boston metro areas, then northward along the entire coast of Maine.

"The high winds plus the weight of the snow will also cause widespread power outages and may result in some tree damage."

The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system that will intensify off the North Carolina coast on Sunday morning and strengthen into a major storm as it moves northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

The best advice comes from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: "Try to get home early and if you don't have to travel don't go."

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