Massive storm set to cripple eastern United States
Americans brace themselves for heavy snowfall and tornadoes
US authorities are warning that up to 75 million people may find themselves in the path of a massive storm system set to hit eastern states in the next 24 hours.
CNN reports that at least 30 million residents are under a "blizzard watch", with strong winds and up to two feet of snow expected to fall before the end of the weekend.
Severe snow warnings are in force for Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York and tornado warnings have been issued in southern states from Florida through to Texas.
A combination of heavy snowfall and damaging winds has the potential to cause chaos throughout affected areas, says the US Meteorological Service.
"Heavy and blowing snow will cause dangerous conditions and will be a threat to life and property," it warns. "Travel is expected to be severely limited if not impossible during the height of the storm."
"This is going to be one for the record books," CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.
Washington mayor Muriel Bowser and her New York counterpart Bill de Blasio urged motorists to stay off the roads.
"Anyone who has the illusion you're going to be taking big trips over the weekend, get that out of your mind, " De Blasio said.
At a supermarket in Baltimore, the Guardian notes, one woman, Sharon Brewington, stocked her cart with ready-to-eat snacks, bread, milk and cooked meats. In 2010, she and her daughter had been caught in a storm with nothing but noodles and water in the house.
"I'm not going to make that mistake again," she said.
The Mid-Atlantic region is notorious for struggling to cope with winter weather and a light dusting on Wednesday night served as an ominous prelude to the massive blizzard.
According to flight-tracking website flightaware.com, nearly 4,000 flights in and around the US have been cancelled between now and Sunday morning.