US snow: Three killed in car crashes as major snowstorm hits US east coast

Three people have been killed in car crashes as a powerful snowstorm sweeps across the east coast of the United States.

Snow warnings are in place for much of the eastern seaboard with more than 50 million people braced for outages and treacherous conditions on the roads.

Up to two feet (60cm) of snow is predicted to fall in some parts, with around 18 inches – two inches per hour – expected from central Pennsylvania into southern New York and New England.

The National Weather Service said the storm was “set to bring an overabundance of hazards from the mid-Atlantic to the northeast”.

This includes freezing rain and ice in the mid-Atlantic, heavy snow in the New York City area and southern New England, strong winds with gusts up to 50mph (80kmph) and coastal flooding, as well as severe thunderstorms and even some tornadoes.

Officials throughout the area urged motorists to stay off the roads and residents to stay at home, and some bus and rail services have been suspended.

A crash in Pennsylvania killed two people and involved dozens of vehicles on a major road on Wednesday afternoon, police said, while issuing a reminder to only travel if “absolutely necessary”.

In Virginia, heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain left several thousands of homes and businesses without power on Wednesday.

State police said that by mid-afternoon, officers had responded to around 200 crashes, including one on Interstate 81 that killed a North Carolina man.

According to the Flightware website, more than 600 flights have been cancelled in or out of the US today.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency and closed state offices, noting it was the first major snowstorm during the pandemic.

It also comes as states are distributing the recently-authorised Pzifer vaccine.

Authorities said they did not expect the vaccine rollout to be disrupted, though some states temporarily shut coronavirus testing centres.

New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, ordered schools to close on Thursday for remote learning, but after changes brought in because of the epidemic, he said it would be different than in past years.

“I know we all grew up with the excitement of snow days, but this year is different,” de Blasio tweeted.

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