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East Coast Blizzard Doesn't Fall Short Of Expectations


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin sitting in for Scott Simon. Much of the East Coast is shut down today as a powerful blizzard moves through the region. Before the day is over, forecasters say 20 to 30 inches of snow will have fallen in some areas. Officials are warning people to stay indoors, saying gale force winds make this a life-threatening storm. From North Carolina to New York, thousands of flights are canceled. Transit systems in major cities have stopped service or sharply reduced it. NPR's Jennifer Ludden has been out in the elements, and she joins me now in the studio. Jennifer, what is the scene out there? What's the situation right now?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: You know, really you have city officials across the East Coast trying to keep up with a snow that's still falling, in some places 2 to 3 inches an hour we're told. It's heavy. It's wet. There were snow plows going all night long around the hotel here where I stayed. You've got city officials saying they're trying hard to keep major, you know, passways open for emergency vehicles to get through. You also have, you know, hotels packed across this city with companies and the government that have put in workers overnight for jobs that they really want them to be able to do - grocery stores, pharmacies. I met Waverly Hawkins in a hotel. He works for the company that stocks food on Amtrak trains. We're very close to Union Station here. And Hawkins says his company is transporting workers around the clock from the hotel to the station.

WAVERLY HAWKINS: Under these conditions, not knowing deep it was going to get, they figured it would be there to be safe than sorry. So they asked people to volunteer if they wanted to, like, come, stay. They provided rooms. And so I'm here.

LUDDEN: So there are fewer Amtrak trains today, but they are going to have food on them. You know, in D.C. - Washington, D.C. - the metro system is shut down until Monday. Smithsonian museums, National Zoo, everything closed.

MARTIN: Of course, D.C. has been in the eye of this storm, but it's affected other areas as well. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this morning said that this storm has the potential to rank in the top five blizzards ever...

LUDDEN: Yes, yes. And they are preparing for I think more than they - was originally forecast there in New York City. Quite a bit of snow. They have just announced that all roads in and around New York City, including bridges and tunnels, are going to shut down at 2:30 today. Underground parts of New York City's subway system will shut at 4 o'clock. Elsewhere, people are really begging people not to get out on the roads. We've had some nightmare scenarios in Pennsylvania. Earlier today in Kentucky, a stretch of I-75 shut down because of multiple car accidents. You had police bringing out food, fuel and water to people and setting up emergency shelters before they resolved that situation. Elsewhere along the coast in New Jersey, some residents have been told to evacuate because of fear of coastal flooding. We've had really gale force wind pushing the storm surge high.

MARTIN: You've had a chance to get out and about and talk to folks here in Washington. How are people dealing with all of this?

LUDDEN: You know, I went to a shelter for the homeless that has been open 24/7 since yesterday at noon. They're bursting - have as many people as they can fit. They're bringing in food and snacks and keeping people warm and safe. People there say they're very grateful. Then you go down a few blocks, and, you know, there's a lot of people out having a great time. I ran into some people who were snowboarding on the back of a Land Rover, kids playing, you know, as long as people are staying safe they're really enjoying it.

MARTIN: NPR's Jennifer Ludden. We'll be sending her back outside, and we'll be hearing more from you later. Thanks so much, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.

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