WASHINGTON — Airlines have canceled about 7,600 flights to, from, or within the U.S. as a blizzard begins covering much of the eastern part of the country.
The flight tracking service FlightAware says the bulk of Friday's 3,500 cancellations were in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Another 4,100 flights have been canceled for Saturday, with airlines essentially shutting down all flights into Philadelphia, Washington, and New York.
Altogether, that represents about 15 percent of scheduled flights in the U.S. for both days.
The airlines hope to be back to a full schedule by Sunday.
Even the start of the snowstorm couldn't keep some tourists from visiting the White House.
On Friday afternoon, several groups and couples were walking in the park in front of the mansion, and the fountain in the home's yard was still spraying water.
Newlyweds Stefan Tomic and Cherokee Tomic, both 22, were visiting from New York and had just arrived in the city Friday by bus. They said they didn't want to change their plans because of the weather and that their first stop was the White House.
"We're just going to have fun," Cherokee Tomic said.
A shivering homeless man in Kentucky has found some warmth in the kindness of strangers.
Shawn Harmon was standing in the snow at an intersection in Louisville with his dog when a teenage girl hopped out of a car at a red light and handed him a red wool blanket.
Harmon said "God bless you." Harmon and his dog Tucker, a bluenose pitbull, had been standing at this intersection for hours, despite the snow and freezing temperatures that kept most in Louisville hunkered in their houses. Harmon said he couldn't go to a shelter because they won't take dogs and he won't leave Tucker. He needed $20 more for a $75 motel room.
The storm system ravaging the East Coast brought tornadoes and snow to Mississippi.
The National Weather Service in Jackson confirmed at least two tornadoes tore through Lamar and Simpson counties on Thursday. No injuries were reported.
By Friday, parts of northern Mississippi had received up to 2 inches of snow.
Meteorologist Brad Bryant says it's rare for a system to bring tornadoes and snow to the state.
Both tornadoes damaged homes in the area, uprooted trees and downed power lines. The snow caused accidents on roadways and shuttered schools and businesses.
Airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights to, from or within the U.S. for Friday and Saturday, as a blizzard began covering much of the Eastern U.S.
The bulk of Friday's 2,900 cancelations are in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Another 3,300 flights were canceled for Saturday. Those cancelations center on Philadelphia, Washington, and New York, with airlines essentially shutting down all flights into those cities.
By Sunday afternoon, however, the airlines hope to be back to a full schedule to handle the typical influx of business travelers heading out to start a week on the road.
One bit of good news: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie is returning to New Jersey from the presidential campaign trail and is preparing to meet with his cabinet and brief the press.
Christie had been scheduled to remain in New Hampshire through the weekend, when the bulk of the storm was expected to dump up to 18 inches of snow on parts of New Jersey.
Christie will hold a storm briefing with his Cabinet members Friday night and then will speak with the media from the Newark Department of Transportation garage.
Christie said Friday he was canceling campaign events Friday and Saturday because of the weather, but New Jersey's first lady Mary Pat would stay in New Hampshire.
A Tennessee Highway Patrolman says interstates are "pure gridlock" around downtown Nashville and "just totally shut down."
Lt. Bill Miller says snow plows and salt trucks are out, but they can't keep up with the winter weather.
Josh Booker is a cook at a Nashville Waffle House restaurant. He says the restaurant is putting employees up at a nearby hotel in order to keep the Waffle House open 24 hours a day.
Booker says the restaurant should have put them up overnight on Thursday because he barely made it in to work on Friday morning with his fiancee, who also works at the Waffle House, and two children.
He says they took it slow on the snow-covered roads but got stuck at the intersection just in front of the restaurant. Several people came out and pushed the car into the parking lot.
The snowstorm forecast from meteorologists was dead-on and is about to turn into a nightmare for some 50 million people in the East Coast.
The forecasters are calling for snowfall that will be measured in feet, gale force winds, coastal flooding and white-out conditions.
The feared snowstorm sloshed from the Ohio Valley into Virginia on Friday morning and was approaching Washington's doorstep a couple hours earlier than predicted.
Daniel Petersen, forecaster at the National Weather Service's prediction center in College Park, Maryland, says it looks just like promised with accumulations threatening 30 inches or more in some places.
For people living from Washington to Philadelphia, Petersen had simple advice: hunker down.
Blizzard warnings stretched from Washington to New York with heavy snow likely to go even further north than that, stopping just short of Boston.
Authorities say a couple was in a vehicle that slid off an icy road and plummeted down a 300-foot embankment in Tennessee, killing the woman driver.
Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said Stacy Sherrill was driving a vehicle with her husband riding along when it slid off the road. Her husband survived the crash, but it took him several hours to climb the embankment and report the accident.
At least five people have died in storm-related crashes in Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. Officials are warning people to stay off roads as the blizzard makes its way across the East Coast.
Even though snow has yet to fall in Atlanta as people across the South and East prepare for a major storm, the city's mayor is urging employers to send workers home early to avoid a repeat of the freeway chaos of January 2014.
Mayor Kasim Reed says Atlanta government offices will close at 11 a.m. Friday, and city schools will dismiss students between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reed is asking Atlanta employers to let their workers leave by 2 p.m.
Reed says it's important that office workers and others who commute into Atlanta for the workday don't leave all at once. That's what happened in 2014, leaving scores of motorists trapped on jammed freeways overnight.
The mayor said valuable lessons were learned from that mess, such as better communication.
Many people in the Washington region are staying home from work ahead of the approaching snow storm.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel says that as of 9 a.m. Friday, ridership on the region's rail lines was down 50 percent. He says riders had taken 37,000 trips this Friday morning compared with 74,000 last Friday.
Metro has said it will end rail service at 11 p.m. Friday. The system will remain closed Saturday and Sunday.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington is wrapping up a couple of hours early because of the impending snowstorm.
The meeting has been underway in Washington since Wednesday. But as a massive snow storm is about to start bearing down on the nation's capital, U.S. Conference of Mayors Director of Communications Elena Temple-Webb said Friday that the meeting is ending a bit earlier than planned.
Temple-Webb says the meeting was scheduled to wrap up at 2 p.m. Friday, but because of weather conditions the afternoon luncheon and some morning meetings have been cancelled.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking residents to "hunker down" and "shelter in place."
The mayor said at a Friday morning press conference that snow is expected to start arriving between 1 and 3 p.m., a little earlier than reported Thursday. She says the city expects 2 to 2.5 feet of wet, heavy snow. She says residents can expect downed trees and power lines.
Bowser calls the blizzard a "major storm" with "life and death implications," and says the forecast shows no signs of lightening up.
Christopher Geldart, director of the District of Columbia's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, asked residents to be where they plan to be for the storm by 3 p.m. Friday.
He says that even when the snow stops, it will affect the region for some time.
A northern Virginia bishop is giving Catholics in his diocese the OK to stay home from Mass on Sunday, when the region is expected to be buried in snow.
The Most Rev. Paul Loverde, the bishop of Arlington, said in a statement released Thursday that Catholics in the diocese aren't obligated to attend Mass this Sunday as usual because of serious concerns about travel conditions. The National Weather Service estimates a blizzard could bring 2 feet of snow to Washington.
Washington Archdiocese spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi says that archdiocese, which covers the nation's capital and five southern Maryland counties, will remind people Friday that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse from fulfilling their Sunday Mass obligation.
Both encourage Catholics who can't safely attend Mass to watch a televised Mass.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, airlines canceled more than 2,400 flights Friday to, from or within the U.S. as a major snowstorm bears down on the East Coast.
Another 2,400 were canceled for Saturday. The bulk of those Friday cancellations were in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Saturday's cancellations center around Philadelphia, Washington and — to a lesser extent — New York.
By Sunday afternoon, however, the airlines hope to be back to full schedule to handle the influx of business travelers heading out for the week, one of the busiest travel periods.
The only good news for fliers facing flight cancellations as a winter storm approaches the East Coast: Saturday is the slowest travel day of the week.
According to flight tracking service FlightAware, there are a little more than 22,000 flights scheduled to, from or within the U.S. That's about 5,000 fewer flights — and 400,000 fewer passengers — than on Thursday or Friday.
All major airlines have issued waivers for travel over the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. The airports included vary by airline but include some cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia all the way up the coast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. American Airlines alone has issued waivers for 42 airports.
The major storm swirling toward the East Coast is already leading to travel disruptions in Pennsylvania.
All flights into and out of Philadelphia International Airport have been canceled for Saturday, when the blizzard conditions are expected to be in full swing.
Airport spokeswoman Diane Gerace says airlines are being proactive ahead of the expected storm and decided to cancel all flights.
She says airlines hope to resume flights Sunday, but travelers should check with their carriers to get detailed information.
The National Weather Service on Friday issued a blizzard warning for Philadelphia and its northern suburbs.
Snow is expected to start falling after 7 p.m. Friday and won't slow down until Sunday around 10 a.m. As much as 18 inches could fall around Philadelphia, and two feet is possible for inland places like Gettysburg.
Gov. Bill Haslam's office says all state offices across Tennessee will be closed Friday as the state feels the effects of a winter storm that threatens to bring record snowfall to the Washington area.
A previous statement said offices in Middle and East Tennessee would be open for a half-day, but Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said conditions deteriorated earlier than was forecast.
Snow was falling across many areas in Tennessee before sunrise. The Tennessee Department of Transportation warned motorists to drive with caution due to slick conditions.
While some residents and businesses worry about the effect of a large storm making its way across the U.S., at least one industry is loving all the snow: ski resorts.
Many resorts got a late start to the season because of record high temperatures in December. The storm that started to arrive in some states Friday is expected to dump feet of snow in some areas. In West Virginia, up to two feet is forecast.
Joe Stevens of the West Virginia Ski Areas Association says, "There is never too much snow on the slopes." But he admitted that getting to and from resorts on icy roads could be problematic, as could clearing snow from parking lots packed with visitors.
Still, he says, skiing and snowboarding will be excellent at the state's four major resorts: Snowshoe Mountain, Canaan Valley, Winterplace and Timberline.
Officials say Washington taxicabs will charge an additional $15 during the snow storm.
District of Columbia Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters says the "snow emergency fare" will go into effect at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Waters says the $15 will be in addition to the regular metered charge. The taxi commission says the fee was added to encourage some taxis to remain in service during the storm.
The fare period will remain in effect for 12 hours unless it is extended.
According to Washington municipal regulations, a snow emergency fare period can be put into place when there are hazardous driving conditions, such as significant accumulation of snow on the streets.
Waters says possible fare extensions will be reviewed Friday and determined by weather conditions.
Pennsylvania's governor has declared a state of emergency as an approaching winter storm targeting the Washington area and the Northeast is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on much of the southern part of the state.
Gov. Tom Wolf's declaration allows authorities to respond quickly to any problems. State officials are expected to have more to say at a Friday afternoon news conference.
Forecasters say snow accumulations over 12 inches are expected in the southern half of the state, with the Gettysburg area and southeastern Pennsylvania likely to see the most snow.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority on Friday will discuss storm preparations.
Amtrak's Keystone Service between Harrisburg and New York will have a modified schedule with fewer trains.
Meanwhile, utility crews are dealing with a major water main break in Pittsburgh's Banksville neighborhood.
A statement from the Shelby County Mayor's Office says snow and freezing rain are creating hazardous driving conditions in the Memphis area.
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. says salt and sand trucks have been out since early Friday morning treating main roadways, but icy conditions have been reported on some bridges and overpasses. Officials urged people to stay off the roads if possible.
Forecasters say snow and sleet accumulations could reach 4 to 6 inches in West Tennessee. In Memphis, where blizzard conditions are possible, salt trucks and plows are ready to clear roads of snow and ice. Three warming centers are open for those seeking refuge from below-freezing temperatures.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has ordered state offices in West Tennessee closed all day. Other state offices will close at noon.
A major winter storm dropped 6 inches of snow in the Little Rock area overnight, breaking a snowfall record set more than 20 years ago.
The National Weather Service says it's recorded 6.2 inches of snow at its office in North Little Rock, just outside the capital city. The winter storm shut down schools and state government offices in central Arkansas on Friday as the snow continues to fall.
A winter storm warning remains in effect until noon Friday. The National Weather Service says strong winds with gusts of up to 40 mph will make driving difficult, especially in the eastern part of the state.
The state's largest utility, Entergy Arkansas, says about 12,500 homes and businesses are without power Friday morning, primarily in the eastern half of the state.
The National Weather Service says the blizzard about to hit the Eastern United States could rank near the top 10 ever to hit the region.
Meteorologist Paul Kocin with the service's Weather Prediction Center says snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more in the area. That puts estimates at more than 2 feet for Washington, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and 8 inches to a foot in New York.
Five states and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency ahead of the slow-moving system. The federal government announced Thursday night that its offices would close at noon Friday.
Weather service director Louis Uccellini says resident should expect brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow.