How bad will it be? The National Weather Service says the blizzard now starting to menace the East Coast could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region. DC, for instance, is now looking at 29 inches by Sunday, which would be its highest total ever, reports NBC News, breaking a 1922 record of 28 inches. Snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches an hour could continue for 24 hours, putting estimates at a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia, and 8 inches to a foot in New York City. It will rival "Snowmageddon," the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow in places. The only silver lining is that the weekend timing and days of warning could help limit deaths and damage. Still, Saturday will be "an absolute mess," says a meteorologist for the Weather Channel. Travel will be "literally impossible anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region."
As food and supplies vanished from store shelves, five states and the District of Columbia declared states of emergency. Schools and government offices closed preemptively, and thousands of flights were canceled. (All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend.) The director of the Weather Prediction Center says all the ingredients have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, whiteout conditions, and even the possibility of thundersnow. Roughly 78 million people, one in four Americans, are under some kind of weather advisory.