(Adds color, power outage, quotes, weather deaths)
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, March 3 A deadly winter storm hit
the U.S. East Coast on Monday with freezing rain, snow and
near-record cold, cancelling about 2,700 flights, shutting down
Washington and closing schools and local governments.
The latest in a series of weather systems to pummel the
winter-weary eastern United States, the storm dumped about 4
inches (10 cm) on the U.S. capital by early afternoon as it
swept from the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, the
National Weather Service said.
Brian Hurley, a weather service meteorologist, said
temperatures would be about 30 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees
Celsius) below normal as a cold front settled in from Great
Plains to the Atlantic coast.
"It's really, really cold, temperatures dropping into the
teens (Fahrenheit, minus-7 to minus-10 Celsius) and the normal
highs are around 50 (10C) at this point," he said.
At least four weather-related traffic deaths in Texas,
Oklahoma and Tennessee were blamed on the wide-ranging storm
over the weekend.
Although the snow bypassed northern cities including New
York and Boston, by early on Monday New York's temperature had
already peaked at 23 F (-5 C), Hurley said.
Freeze warnings were in place from the Canadian border into
Texas. The main electric grid operator for most of Texas issued
a conservation alert due to expected higher demand, and heavy
sleet left about 30,000 homes and businesses in Memphis,
Tennessee, out of power, Memphis Light, Gas and Water reported.
The storm shrouded Washington, D.C., in snow and prompted
the U.S. government to shutter its area offices, and Congress
put off scheduled votes.
MERCURY STUCK IN SINGLE DIGITS
Steve Zubrick, a weather service meteorologist for the
Washington area, said overnight lows were forecast at 9F (-13C).
That would be close to the March 1873 record of 4F (-16C), the
last time Washington temperatures went below 10F (-12C) in the
month of March.
The governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi and
Tennessee declared states of emergency, and schools and local
governments throughout the area closed. Maryland and West
Virginia shut state offices as the storm dumped a foot (30 cm)
of snow on the Appalachian Mountains.
In Beckley, West Virginia, the snow forced schools to close,
another headache for officials already struggling to make up 15
days of school lost because of weather.
But for student Johnathan Tippley, 15, the day off meant
time to grab a snow shovel and make money.
"On a day like this you can make a killing. Plus, there's
nothing else to do right now ... might as well make some cash,"
About 2,700 U.S. flights were canceled and 3,300 were
delayed on Monday because of the storm, according to airline
tracking site FlightAware.com.
The worst-hit airport was Washington's Reagan National,
where almost 80 percent of flights were called off.
Esteban Rodriguez, 26, said he was resigned about
rescheduling his flight back home to Central America from Reagan
National. He said he had grown accustomed to winter weather
while studying sustainable energy in Iceland.
"Even I am used to it, and I'm from Guatemala," Rodriguez
said as a dozen snowplows labored to clear runways and taxiways
On the West Coast, a weather front will move onshore over
the Pacific Northwest and northern California through Tuesday,
bringing much-needed rain and snow to the region, the National
Weather Service said.
Snow also is expected over parts of the Rocky Mountains and
the northern Great Plains, it said.
(Additional reporting by Ann Moore in West Virginia, Tom
Ramstack in Washington, Jon Herskovitz in Texas, Tim Ghianni in
Tennessee; Editing by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama and Nick