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Cities Shut Down As Blizzard Blankets East Coast


Onto the weather now, and if you're on the East Coast, you already know this. But for everybody else, much of the East Coast is paralyzed tonight as a massive blizzard continues to dump snow. Up to 30 inches could fall in some places. Officials are urging people to stay inside because of dangerously high winds still blowing. In New York City, roads, bridges and aboveground subways are closed. Broadway is dark. Coastal flooding in New Jersey is forcing some residents to evacuate. And in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, traffic accidents stranded hundreds of drivers for hours. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has been following events and reports on the day starting here on the street of the nation's capital.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: The Metro is shut down here until Monday, and that means most businesses and stores are closed. But the city's hotels are packed full of workers logging overtime to keep some things running - grocery stores or pharmacies. There are also city workers who've been snowplowing nonstop for 24 hours now and workers who have been staffing warming centers for the homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, baby girl. Get some rest.

LUDDEN: The Kennedy Recreation Center in northwest Washington was packed with 105 men who were allowed in starting Friday

WILLIAM BLOCKER: I came here at 12 noon as soon as they opened (laughter).

LUDDEN: 63-year-old William Blocker (ph) normally spends days at the library, but that was closed now. Here, he sat in a semicircle of chairs around a flat-screen TV where there was a steady supply of movies.

BLOCKER: It's been fine. It's warm. They feed us. We have cots in the gym back there where we sleep.

LUDDEN: Blocker said he'll stay as long as he can. Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the agency's playing that by ear depending on the weather. A few blocks away, we caught up with two men snowboarding behind a green Land Rover.

CHRIS CARR: Well, that's a Defender 90. That doesn't get stuck anywhere.

LUDDEN: Chris Carr (ph) and Charles Kotch (ph) had tied ropes to the back. They called it their urban ski lift - OK, not quite as zippy as downhill but hey.

CARR: It's great, yeah. And, I mean, you can pull yourself over onto the sides here where the snow is fresh, and it's great. The problem is the people in the streets. You've got to be careful with them.

LUDDEN: And pedestrians did seem everywhere, strolling down the middle of streets normally filled with cars. There were also a surprising number of four-wheelers out and about. That annoyed the pedestrians and drew a warning from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.


MURIEL BOWSER: The visibility is poor, and you cannot be seen. There are too many people on the streets both driving and walking. We need you to stay home.

LUDDEN: In New York City, officials shut down roads, bridges and aboveground subways. Broadway went dark. The city was on track to get far more snow than forecast - 16 inches and counting. Governor Andrew Cuomo said, at times, it was falling at a rate of three inches an hour.

ANDREW CUOMO: When the snowfall hits a certain rate, the plows literally can't keep up with the amount of snowfall, and that's where we are.

LUDDEN: In New Jersey, coastal flooding forced residents in a number of towns to evacuate. It's a full moon tonight with winds at 50 miles-per-hour and more. The storm's surges at high tide were far higher than normal. Jason Pellegrini (ph) owns Steak Out Restaurant in Sea Isle, N.J.

JASON PELLEGRINI: I looked out my window, and I could still see the street. About 10 minutes later, I looked out the window again, and it was almost looked like a river just raging down.

LUDDEN: He says at one point, the water reached his waist. Across the East Coast, states of emergency remain in place as the snow continues to fall. Officials say the massive cleanup to come could take days. Jennifer Ludden, NPR news. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.
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