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Major Snowstorm Pounds US East Coast


The illuminated dome of the US Capitol could be seen through the wind-blown snow in Northeast Washington (P. Datcher/VOA)

A monster winter storm has blanketed much of the U.S. east coast with a heavy layer of snow, shuttering residents in their homes, stranding motorists, and creating what forecasters say could be “life-threatening blizzard conditions.”

More than 30 centimeters of snow have already fallen on many parts of the region, including Washington DC. Forecasters say it will get much worse, with snowfall totals possibly doubling and combining with heavy winds that will create near whiteout conditions.

“The combination of heavy snow, strong winds, and potential life threatening conditions are expected through Saturday night,” said the National Weather Service in a blizzard warning.

The Howard Theatre in Washington, Jan. 23, 2016. (P. Datcher/VOA)
The Howard Theatre in Washington, Jan. 23, 2016. (P. Datcher/VOA)

At least nine people have already died nationwide as a result of the slow-moving storm, which has brought snowy and often treacherous conditions all the way from Georgia to New England.

Emergency status

States of emergency have been declared in at least 10 states.

In Kentucky, authorities have opened emergency shelters along a major interstate highway, where motorists have been stranded for at least 10 hours.

Washington DC, which was in the bullseye of the storm, had already received around 25 centimeters of snow, with accumulation expected to continue into Sunday.

WATCH: Snow quickly piles up in Washington

Timelapse: Massive Mid-Atlantic Blizzard Sets In Around National Mall
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By the time it passes through, the snowstorm could be one of the city’s top 10 worst in recorded history, according to forecasters.

Ahead of the storm, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency and closed local schools Friday.

"This has life-and-death implications, and all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way," said Bowser.

Federal government offices in the city shut down. Authorities even took the rare step of closing the entire DC Metro public transit system.

Nationwide, at least 6,300 flights were canceled Friday and thousands more were delayed. Widespread power outages were also expected.

In New York City, forecasters worsened their prediction for snowfall as the storm approached. They now believe the city could also get as much as 45 centimeters of snow.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said authorities were dealing with the storm Saturday and cautioned people to remain home unless it is an emergency.