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Winter storm system socks East Coast

Four states, District of Columbia declare emergency

A guard walks past mounds of snow in front of the White House on Sunday.
A guard walks past mounds of snow in front of the White House on Sunday.

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A huge snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow on Washington, D.C., shutting down Reagan National Airport. CNN's Patty Davis reports (February 16)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Officials declared states of emergency Sunday in the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia as a storm system stretching from the Ohio Valley to the eastern United States brought snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Heavy accumulations of snow shut airports and rail lines, and flood watches were issued from northern Arkansas and Alabama through Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport closed early Sunday. Both were expected to reopen at 12 p.m. Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration said, though spokeswomen for the airports said they were shut indefinitely.

"We're just hanging out here," said a frustrated passenger at Reagan National. "I just hope the airport is not going to get too cold at night."

Dulles International Airport was operating with one runway.

Holiday expected to ease strain on Washington

The Presidents' Day federal holiday will dull the impact of the biggest winter storm to hit Washington this season because government offices will be closed, a city agency spokeswoman predicted.

Mary Myers of Washington's Public Works Department said road crews were expecting less traffic Monday, which will mean fewer obstacles for snowplows. Many motorists were staying indoors.

"This is a government town, so we are looking for lighter-than-normal traffic, which can only help us," she said.

The storm dumped at least a foot of snow in the city and suburbs, closing shopping malls, other businesses, monuments and the Smithsonian Institution museums.

"That's usually a big chunk of the sightseeing itinerary," Myers said. Many events were canceled.

Because of the storm, President Bush returned to the White House by motorcade Sunday instead of traveling by helicopter from his mountaintop retreat at Camp David, Maryland.

"It's very nerve-racking out there because you can't even find the road," Merrie Street, a spokeswoman for the Harford County, Maryland, emergency center, told The Associated Press.

Snow emergency in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania declared a snow emergency Sunday afternoon.

"This is the 14th snowfall that we've had in 12 weeks. And it's going to be the biggest and the largest," said Philip Goldsmith, the city's managing director of streets.

New York expected up to a foot of snow, and 3 to 6 inches were predicted for Boston, Massachusetts. Temperatures in Baltimore, Maryland, fell to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of minus 7, early Sunday.

Snow fell from Missouri to New Jersey, and flakes piled up at a rate of up to 4 inches per hour in parts of Maryland, where Gov. Robert Ehrlich banned most civilian traffic from state highways, according to the AP.

To the south, freezing rain was falling across southern Virginia into the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and down toward Charlotte. As much as half an inch of ice was predicted.

In Virginia, traffic on highways was reported to be light, but Virginia State Police said they were busy with spinouts and accidents on Interstate 95.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the slow-moving system could continue to bring winter precipitation to some areas for two or three days.

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