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Major Snowstorm Blankets Northeastern US


Snow on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sunday, 20 Dec. 2009

A major late-autumn storm is continuing to blanket parts of the northeastern United States, after dumping a record amount of snow on the nation's capital and other areas along the mid-Atlantic coast.

The U.S. National Weather Service warned of blizzard conditions for parts of southern New England on Sunday, with winds gusting up to 96 kilometers per hour and more than 40 centimeters of snow expected to fall.

The storm buried the Washington, D.C. area Saturday, breaking all local records for a December snowfall. Some other parts of the region were covered by nearly 60 centimeters of snow.

Authorities say the storm caused at least three deaths in the southern state of Virginia, and made travel difficult or impossible.

The storm also caused hundreds of flights to be canceled, disrupting busy pre-Christmas holiday travel. Officials say airport runways began to reopen early Sunday.

Public transportation was largely shut down in the Washington area, including outdoor stations of the region's Metrorail subway system.

Before the snowfall ended late Saturday in Washington, officials urged area residents to stay home and avoid driving because the storm was dropping snow faster than crews could clear it.

Snowplows had to clear the runway at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington so that President Barack Obama's plane (Air Force One) could land after his return trip from Copenhagen. The president later joked with reporters that he was glad to see the snow because it reminded him of his hometown, Chicago, where big winter storms are commonplace.

Many others were not so glad to see the snow. Retailers were forced to close on the Saturday before Christmas, normally a day of heavy shopping activity. And motorists on highways across the region were stranded by accidents and impassable roads.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.