Wide range of wintry conditions affects half of US

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Tourists flocked to the monuments in the nation’s capital Sunday to enjoy 50-degree temperatures before yet another winter storm was expected to dump up to a foot of snow on parts of the East Coast.

In the latest blast of a harsh winter, forecasters said a layer of ice and as much as 10 inches of snow was possible by the end of Monday in Washington and the Mid-Atlantic region, while up to 8 inches of snow was predicted across parts of southern Pennsylvania. Nearly a foot of snow was expected in parts of New Jersey.

“I’m over it,” said Yasmon Hanks, 24, of Hampton, Va., echoing thoughts of many who’ve been cooped up inside this winter. Hanks visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall with her husband, Lynwood, and two young children. She was happy to be able to get outside, she said, because “I thought it was going to be way worse.”

Elsewhere on the Mall, joggers were out in shorts and T-shirts, families flew kites and tour guides led groups around landmarks such as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Cherry blossom trees were growing new buds for the spring.

But oh how so much can change in a matter of hours. More snow and ice, perhaps as much as 2 inches falling every hour, were on the way ahead of Monday’s morning commute. By late Sunday afternoon, rain was moved into the Washington area, temperatures dropped and the city had declared a snow emergency beginning early Monday.

On Sunday night, the federal government announced that its Washington-area offices will be closed Monday. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which sets leave policies for 300,000 federal workers in the region, says non-emergency personnel are granted excused absences for the day.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to be open and had arguments scheduled for Monday.

A round of wintry precipitation moved across much of the nation Sunday, bringing a mix of freezing rain and heavy snow to central and eastern states. Authorities warned of possible power outages and flight disruptions from weather that could affect millions.

Ken and Linda Mokry, of Chicago, took advantage of the 54-degree temperature in Washington to visit as many monuments as possible before the storm.

“You’ve got grass! We don’t even have grass to see at home yet,” Linda Mokry, 66, said. “We had our first snow right at the end of November … and we’ve had snow ever since then, so we’ve had a long, long winter - way too long.”

Ken Mokry noticed the cherry blossom trees are forming tiny buds, making him wish spring would arrive sooner so they could see the trees blossom in pink and white.

“I hope this cold snap doesn’t hurt anything,” he said. “We were really hoping that we would be able to see them. Maybe next time.”

In Pittsburgh, snow began falling about dawn and was expected to taper off before another band of snow hits early Monday. Forecasters were expecting 3 to 6 inches total. Philadelphia was expected to get four to 8 inches through Monday. More than 6 inches would make it the city’s second snowiest winter, surpassing 65.5 inches that fell in 1995-96.

Nearly 1,900 flights in the United States were canceled and another 1,863 delayed Sunday evening, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com. The bulk of the problems were in Dallas, Chicago and Newark, N.J. There are more than 30,000 flights in the United States on a typical day.

Another 1,612 flights for Monday were also already canceled, with Washington’s Regan National airport accounting for 246 of them.

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