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Wintry storm causing havoc, churning toward Northeast

  • NEW: WSPA: Accident closes I-26 in N.C.; some motorists stuck so long they've run out of fuel
  • Washington mayor: "We think this will be the biggest snowfall since 2003"
  • Virginia governor declares state of emergency
  • Washington may get 2 feet of snow; blizzard conditions possible for Long Island

(CNN) -- Virginia's governor declared a state of emergency Friday as a winter storm expected to pummel the East Coast this weekend began dumping snow in Virginia and North Carolina.

The storm is forecast to blast a narrow corridor from Richmond, Virginia, to Fredericksville, Pennsylvania, leaving interstates 95, 81, 64 and possibly 80 covered in significant snow, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

Myers said areas like Charlottesville, Virginia, may rake in some of the highest snowfall accumulations, depending on how quickly the storm moves and whether it remains on course.

Roads in the Western part of Virginia are already bad, with lots of accidents being reported, said Bob Spieldenner, Director of Public Affairs at the Virginia Department of Emergency. The Virginia State Police said Friday night at around 8 p.m. they were working 335 accidents.

The hardest hit area so far was in Roanoke, Virginia, along I-81, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Transportation said. The Roanoke Regional Airport said it had cancelled all remaining flights for Friday night.

An accident on I-26 in Western North Carolina has closed the entire interstate, and some drivers have been stuck so long on the road they have run out of fuel, according to CNN affiliate WSPA-TV.

Power lines in the area were also beginning to fall and at least 38,000 residents were without power as of 7 p.m., WSPA reported.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said it was receiving high volumes of calls for service, either for accidents, stranded motorists or cars that ran off the road.

Sgt. Jeff Gordon said that as of 10 p.m. Friday night the highway patrol had received 682 calls in the Asheville area, 623 calls in Newton, 682 calls in Salisbury and 513 calls in the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point areas. I-77 near U.S. 21 was also blocked, Gordon said, because of a tractor-trailer jackknife.

Gordon said there was about 8 to 12 inches of snow in Asheville. Snowfall differed across the state, he said, with 6 to 8 inches a couple of hours to the east of Asheville and only cold rain east of Raleigh.

"We have our hands full, but all in all I think we're all working together to try and tackle this," Gordon said. "It's just another example of Mother Nature's wrath."

Weather delay information
FAA: Check air travel delays

DOT: Check road travel delays

Several airlines have issued travel alerts allowing for rebooking of flights because of the storm.

Check the following airline links to see whether the advisory applies to you:

AirTran, American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, United, US Airways

Depending on residents' locations along the corridor, residents may see no snowfall or 20 inches, Myers said, noting that there may be only a 50- or 60-mile difference between the two.

WBTV: Heavy snow causes accidents, school closings

A winter storm warning was in effect for East Coast metropolitan areas including Washington; Baltimore, Maryland; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm comes at a pivotal time for Washington. The Senate is embroiled in a contentious battle over the health care reform bill. Wintry conditions could delay commutes to work over the weekend.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said the city will be enacting a snow emergency plan, which will include 750 staff members working around the clock and 330 trucks out on the streets.

"We think this will be the biggest snowfall since 2003," Fenty said during a news conference, referring to a blizzard that dumped about 27 inches in the area.

The National Weather Service in Washington increased its projections for the city to between 10 and 20 inches of snow, Myers said.

Virgin America Airlines said it was canceling all incoming and outgoing flights to Washington/Dulles Airport on Saturday in advance of the storm.

Fenty said workers are already preparing roads with a salt brine solution, in hopes of keeping the snow from piling up and sticking. He also said that as of 7 a.m. Saturday residents will not be allowed to park cars on the city's 100 marked snow emergency routes, which are for the most part the same as the rush hour routes.

In Maryland, state highway officials are also spraying a salt brine solution on highways and roads, CNN affiliate WBAL-TV in Baltimore reported.

WBAL: Highways prepped ahead of storms

The Baltimore Ravens pushed back the starting time of their Sunday football game from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. because of the storm, according to the team's site.

Video: Winter weather outlook
Video: Wintry wonderland in Asheville

In Asheville, North Carolina, snow covered the roads, making for difficult commutes. Some residents, like iReporter Ed Jenest, figured it was better to stay home.

"It's a great day not to go anywhere," he said. "We're listening to music and we've got a fire going."

Air travelers en route to holiday destinations may face delays, said Tammy Jones, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

With snow expected to cloak much of the Northeast, the FAA may institute a ground-delay program if air travel conditions warrant. In such a case, the FAA informs the airlines at a certain airport that they will have to stay on the ground for a period of time, Jones said.

"Snow's not so significant if you're in the air, but on the ground, it can be problematic," Jones said.

Several airlines have issued travel alerts allowing for free rebooking of flights because of the storm. Some flights for the weekend have been canceled.

A storm system developing over the northern Gulf of Mexico will move northeast up the mid-Atlantic on Saturday and "will produce a swath of heavy snowfall," the Weather Service said.

Is snow headed your way? Share photos and video of the wintry scene

Southeastern New York may get 6 to 8 inches of snow, while Manhattan and central and eastern Long Island may get up to a foot. Blizzard conditions are also possible for Long Island, where winds are expected to hit 50 mph Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Mark Fayer, vice president of Long Island Transit Express bus service, which serves metropolitan New York, said he expected normal operations despite a little snow.

"We will be operating our normal schedules; we don't anticipate any delays that we can't handle," Fayer said.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for eastern Kentucky, western and central North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania.

The storm is expected to cause chaos for weekend travelers and Christmas shoppers, but a UPS spokesman said shipped packages shouldn't be delayed.

"The good thing for us and our competitors is that this is happening on a weekend," UPS spokesman Norman Black said.

He says packages set for Monday delivery are "on planes that land tonight and that offload tonight."

UPS never has packages in motion on a Sunday, even the Sunday before Christmas. And because Saturday volume is usually light -- because delivering on Saturday is a premium service -- Black expects few problems.

That is, unless the roads are still a mess and airports aren't cleaned by Monday.

"That's what we worry about," he said.

Journalist Craig Johnson contributed to this report.