January 22, 2016 - 08:39 AMT
U.S. East Coast braces for powerful snowstorm

Washington D.C., New York and other East Coast cities readied fleets of snow plows, thousands of flights were canceled or delayed and residents stocked up on groceries on Thursday, Jan 21, ahead of a winter storm expected to dump up to 30 inches (76 cm) of snow on the region, Reuters reports.

At least five states had declared emergencies by Thursday afternoon, as the season's first major Atlantic Coast storm started to move over the Mid-South before barreling on an expected north and eastward course bringing up to two feet of snow to some areas.

Blizzard warnings were out in the nation's capital and Baltimore, with extreme conditions expected to begin on Friday afternoon, while New York City was under a blizzard watch for Saturday morning.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which includes the second-busiest U.S. subway system, said it would suspend operations from late on Friday through Sunday.

The Virginia National Guard said it planned to bring in up to 300 troops to assist in response operations. Airlines began cancelling Friday and Saturday flights, with most of the 951 cancellations for Friday at Washington and North Carolina airports, according to FlightAware.com.

American Airlines Group Inc scrapped all Friday flights into North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and Delta Air Lines Inc canceled about 120 flights in the Southeast region. American scrapped most Saturday flights into Washington, New York and Philadelphia area airports, and Delta was poised to cancel many of the same.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged motorists to stay off roads, starting on Friday.

Governors in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania joined Bowser in declaring states of emergency, and the governor of West Virginia declared a state of preparedness.