- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

The Northeast is bracing for a major winter storm that is expected to bring at least 12 inches of snow to the Washington, D.C. region.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the region and says the snow is expected to arrive late Friday night and continue through Saturday morning.

The agency says as much as 10 inches is expected by Saturday night, with additional accumulation through Sunday morning. The warning expires at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist in the agency’s Baltimore-Washington office, said forecasters are expecting white-out conditions on Saturday.

“The roads will be treacherous,” he said. “It is supposed to be the No. 1 shopping day tomorrow, but we encourage people not to go out.”

He said this will become the second white Christmas of the decade, if the weather stays cold. In 2002, nearly an inch fell on Dec. 24 and 0.2 fell on Christmas Day.

The storm gathered strength late Thursday over the Gulf of Mexico, then swept into southern Florida with heavy rains that caused flooding. It will continue up the East Coast, gathering moisture and churning out snow when it hits colder temperatures in the Carolinas. Temperatures will be in the low 30s and upper 20s through the weekend from Washington to New York, which is expected to get 5 to 10 inches of snow.

Forecasters said Friday morning the low-pressure system is expected to track along the coast, but they remain uncertain about its exact path.

The agency has issued the lesser “storm watch” for the New York area through Sunday. However, a blizzard watch was issued for Long Island, N.Y.

“The greatest potential for the heavy snow and gusty winds will be along the coast and in the New York City metropolitan area,” the agency said.

The storm will be accompanied by 10- to 20-mph winds, with gusts as high as 30 mph. The northeast winds are expected to result in big waves and rough surf along the coast.

The agency is advising motorists that expected sleet and road-surface ice will make driving hazardous.

Mr. Jackson warned motorist not to venture out if they wake up and find only a few inches of accumulation.

“It is going to continue to get worse,” he said. “We need roads clear so plows can get out to do their jobs.”

The storm is expected to pass the Outer Banks of North Carolina by Saturday morning and reach Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., by Sunday morning. New England is expected to get roughly six inches of snow.

The mountain regions of Virginia and North Carolina are expected to get a mix of snow and ice.

Virginia Gov. TIm Kaine on Friday declared a state of emergency.

“The snowfall amounts along with strong winds could cause serious problems, including power outages throughout much of Virginia,” he said in a statement. “Virginians need to pay attention to their local weather forecasters, avoid travel and prepare to be on their own for up to 72 hours.” D.C.’s Department of Transportation said crews began treating roads with brine late Thursday — hitting elevated roadways, bridges and hilly streets before moving to major arteries.

Agency spokesman John Lisle said the city has budgeted $6.2 million for snow removal this year but such a big storm “can eat up a lot of your budget.”

The impending storm sent East Coast residents to stores, which quickly sold out of such staples as bread and milk. By mid-afternoon, local goverments began announcing closings.

The University of Maryland College Park canceled commencement ceremonies scheduled for Saturday and will reschedule exams.

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