By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, March 6 The U.S. government shut
down on Wednesday ahead of a fierce snowstorm packing heavy, wet
snow that had blanketed the Midwest, leaving thousands without
power and forcing hundreds of flights to be canceled.
Washington could get slammed by its biggest snowfall in as
much as two years, with 6 inches to 12 inches (15 cm to 30 cm)
expected after the storm moved eastward into the mid-Atlantic
states, the National Weather Service said.
The government, already hit by $85 billion in overall budget
cuts that took effect last Friday, ordered 375,000 federal
workers in the Washington area to stay home.
Major school districts in the area also shut down ahead of
the storm, which is packing winds of up to 35 miles per hour (56
km per hour).
Airlines canceled about 1,500 flights, including about 700
at Washington's Reagan, Dulles and Baltimore/Washington
airports. About 1,700 flights were called off on Tuesday as the
storm moved across the north central United States.
The heavy, wet snow was expected to bring down power lines
and tree limbs. About 54,000 Dominion Resources Inc
customers were without power in Virginia, and American Electric
Power Co Inc and FirstEnergy Corp reported 5,000
customers in West Virginia were in the dark.
The National Weather Service forecast heavy rains on the
Atlantic coast. The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
said it was monitoring a coastal storm expected to bring heavy
rain, high winds, snow and coastal flooding through Friday
The weather service said the system dumped 9 inches of snow
on Chicago's O'Hare International Airport by the time the winter
storm warning had expired at midnight Tuesday night, making it
the city's biggest snowstorm in two years.
During the Tuesday evening rush hour, wind-whipped snow
reduced visibility to less than half a mile (0.8 km) and caused
delays on roads.
Monique Bond, a spokeswoman with the Illinois State Patrol,
said bad weather may have contributed to a deadly crash on
Interstate Highway 70 in Marshall, Illinois, near the Indiana
A female driver heading east on I-70 crossed the median and
crashed into a westbound tanker truck. The driver of the car and
her young child died in the accident.
Southwest Airlines Co, which canceled nearly 250
flights out of Chicago's Midway Airport, resumed flight
operations on Tuesday evening, the city's aviation department