WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest on the heavy snowfall expected to hit the Washington area and the Northeast. (all times local)
A northern Virginia bishop is giving Catholics in his diocese the OK to stay home from Mass on Sunday, when the region is expected to be buried in snow.
Most Rev. Paul Loverde, the bishop of Arlington, said in a statement released Thursday that Catholics in the diocese aren’t obligated to attend Mass this Sunday as usual because of serious concerns about travel conditions. The National Weather Service estimates a blizzard could bring 2 feet of snow to Washington.
Washington Archdiocese spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi says that archdiocese, which covers the nation’s capital and five southern Maryland counties, will remind people Friday that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse from fulfilling their Sunday Mass obligation.
Both encourage Catholics who can’t safely attend Mass to watch a televised Mass.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights Friday to, from or within the U.S. as a major snowstorm bears down on the East Coast.
Another 2,400 were canceled for Saturday. The bulk of those Friday cancellations were in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Saturday’s cancellations center around Philadelphia, Washington and — to a lesser extent — New York.
By Sunday afternoon, however, the airlines hope to be back to full schedule to handle the influx of business travelers heading out for the week, one of the busiest travel periods.
The only good news for fliers facing flight cancellations as a winter storm approaches the East Coast: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, there are a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the U.S. That’s about 5,000 fewer flights — and 400,000 fewer passengers — than on Thursday or Friday.
All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. The airports included vary by airline but include some cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia all the way up the coast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. American Airlines alone has issued waivers for 42 airports.
The major storm swirling toward the East Coast is already leading to travel disruptions in Pennsylvania.
All flights into and out of Philadelphia International Airport have been canceled for Saturday, when the blizzard conditions are expected to be in full swing.
Airport spokeswoman Diane Gerace says airlines are being proactive ahead of the expected storm and decided to cancel all flights.
She says airlines hope to resume flights Sunday, but travelers should check with their carriers to get detailed information.
The National Weather Service on Friday issued a blizzard warning for Philadelphia and its northern suburbs.
Snow is expected to start falling after 7 p.m. Friday and won’t slow down until Sunday around 10 a.m. As much as 18 inches could fall around Philadelphia, and two feet is possible for inland places like Gettysburg.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office says all state offices across Tennessee will be closed Friday as the state feels the effects of a winter storm that threatens to bring record snowfall to the Washington area.
A previous statement said offices in Middle and East Tennessee would be open for a half-day, but Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said conditions deteriorated earlier than was forecast.
Snow was falling across many areas in Tennessee before sunrise. The Tennessee Department of Transportation warned motorists to drive with caution due to slick conditions.
While some residents and businesses worry about the effect of a large storm making its way across the U.S., at least one industry is loving all the snow: ski resorts.
Many resorts got a late start to the season because of record high temperatures in December. The storm that started to arrive in some states Friday is expected to dump feet of snow in some areas. In West Virginia, up to two feet is forecast.
Joe Stevens of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association says, “There is never too much snow on the slopes.” But he admitted that getting to and from resorts on icy roads could be problematic, as could clearing snow from parking lots packed with visitors.
Still, he says, skiing and snowboarding will be excellent at the state’s four major resorts: Snowshoe Mountain, Canaan Valley, Winterplace and Timberline.
Officials say Washington taxicabs will charge an additional $15 during the snow storm.
District of Columbia Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters says the “snow emergency fare” will go into effect at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Waters says the $15 will be in addition to the regular metered charge. The taxi commission says the fee was added to encourage some taxis to remain in service during the storm.
The fare period will remain in effect for 12 hours unless it is extended.
According to Washington municipal regulations, a snow emergency fare period can be put into place when there are hazardous driving conditions, such as significant accumulation of snow on the streets.
Waters says possible fare extensions will be reviewed Friday and determined by weather conditions.
Pennsylvania’s governor has declared a state of emergency as an approaching winter storm targeting the Washington area and the Northeast is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on much of the southern part of the state.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration allows authorities to respond quickly to any problems. State officials are expected to have more to say at a Friday afternoon news conference.
Forecasters say snow accumulations over 12 inches are expected in the southern half of the state, with the Gettysburg area and southeastern Pennsylvania likely to see the most snow.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority on Friday will discuss storm preparations.
Amtrak’s Keystone Service between Harrisburg and New York will have a modified schedule with fewer trains.
Meanwhile, utility crews are dealing with a major water main break in Pittsburgh’s Banksville neighborhood.
A statement from the Shelby County Mayor’s Office says snow and freezing rain are creating hazardous driving conditions in the Memphis area.
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. says salt and sand trucks have been out since early Friday morning treating main roadways, but icy conditions have been reported on some bridges and overpasses. Officials urged people to stay off the roads if possible.
Forecasters say snow and sleet accumulations could reach 4 to 6 inches in West Tennessee. In Memphis, where blizzard conditions are possible, salt trucks and plows are ready to clear roads of snow and ice. Three warming centers are open for those seeking refuge from below-freezing temperatures.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has ordered state offices in West Tennessee closed all day. Other state offices will close at noon.
A major winter storm dropped 6 inches of snow in the Little Rock area overnight, breaking a snowfall record set more than 20 years ago.
The National Weather Service says it’s recorded 6.2 inches of snow at its office in North Little Rock, just outside the capital city. The winter storm shut down schools and state government offices in central Arkansas on Friday as the snow continues to fall.
A winter storm warning remains in effect until noon Friday. The National Weather Service says strong winds with gusts of up to 40 mph will make driving difficult, especially in the eastern part of the state.
The state’s largest utility, Entergy Arkansas, says about 12,500 homes and businesses are without power Friday morning, primarily in the eastern half of the state.
The National Weather Service says the blizzard about to hit the Eastern United States could rank near the top 10 ever to hit the region.
Meteorologist Paul Kocin with the service’s Weather Prediction Center says snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more in the area. That puts estimates at more than 2 feet for Washington, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and 8 inches to a foot in New York.
Five states and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency ahead of the slow-moving system. The federal government announced Thursday night that its offices would close at noon Friday.
Weather service director Louis Uccellini says resident should expect brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow.
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