Road crews removing snow in the U.S. capital, 10 Feb 2010
Road crews removing snow in the U.S. capital, 10 Feb 2010

Another major snowstorm is battering the northeastern United States, forcing the U.S. government to close for a third consecutive day. Closing federal government offices can cost $100 million a day in lost productivity.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch for residents in the Washington area, warning them not to drive, reporting "life-threatening" conditions. 

Some essential federal employees have been staying on the job since Monday. Others find it difficult to make it to their offices as many roads in the nation's capital and surrounding areas are still unplowed.

Maryland, Virginia and the Washington, D.C., have already exceeded their annual budgets for snow removal since last month's record storm, which dropped more than 60 centimeters of snow in some areas.

Some hospitals canceled nonessential surgeries and procedures. Others appealed to residents with 4-wheel-drive vehicles to help pick up doctors and nurses and drive them to work.

VOA's David Clements took a firsthand look at area roads in this special web-only video report.

The storm prompted airport closures in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Washington. Thousands of homes throughout the region are still without power, and the roofs of some houses have collapsed due to the weight of the snow.

Hundreds of schools have also been shut down in the Washington area since last week due to the unprecedented snowfall. In New York City, the mayor announced school shutdowns.  The United Nations also announced its headquarters will be closed on Wednesday and appointments for the secretary-general rescheduled.

This is the second major storm in less than a week. It hits just three days after a historic blizzard buried the nation's capital in as much as 90 centimeters of snow, prompting President Barack Obama to call it "Snowmageddon," a play on words combining "snow" and the apocalyptic event in the Bible known as "Armageddon."

Wednesday's storm is expected to dump as much as 50 centimeters of snow by late in the day in much of the eastern United States, including the capital Washington, D.C.

With the latest snowfall, the city may set the mark for its snowiest winter on record.  According to the National Weather Service, the heaviest blizzard on record dumped 72 centimeters in the Washington, D.C. area in January 1922.

Forecasters say an area of low pressure will strengthen rapidly during the day along the Mid-Atlantic region, bringing gusty winds not only to the Northeast but also to much of the country east of the Mississippi River.

Elizabeth Monnac contributed to this story with the slideshow.