Tens of thousands were without power in the eastern US state of New Jersey and authorities in New York were enacting a travel ban on local roads Saturday as snow continued to fall in a blizzard that has left at least nine dead.
Stranded motorists were being put up in emergency Red Cross shelters in Kentucky after thousands were stuck for up to 20 hours on a highway and authorities in several states warned drivers to stay off the road.
"We need you to stay home," Washington mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference Saturday as snow continued to fall more than 24 hours after the first flakes hit the US capital and heavy winds were reducing visibility and causing heavy drifting.
The dangerous conditions caused most people to stay home, clearing out grocers' shelves ahead of the storm and stocking up on snow supplies.
Even top US government officials were forced to change their plans. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and Vice President Joe Biden were both diverted to Florida as they sought to return to the US after attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Biden also met with Turkish officials in Istanbul Saturday.
Snow totals as of Saturday afternoon reached more than 30 centimetres in parts of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virgina, according to the National Weather Service. Many areas saw significantly more snow, with more than 100 centimetres in parts of West Virginia by Saturday afternoon.
Some 30 centimetres had fallen at the White House by 4 pm (2200 GMT) and parts of the greater Washington region saw significantly more snow, with nearly 60 centimetres at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. In New York, 50 centimetres had fallen at New York's LaGuardia Airport, the weather service said.
Flooding was reporting in coastal Delaware and New Jersey.
Some 2,200 National Guard soldiers from 12 states had been called in to assist local authorities, the Defence Department said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a travel ban for roads in New York City and neighbouring areas and local trains were to halt service Saturday afternoon.
As many as 85 million people live in the storm's path, CNN reported, with the US capital Washington and the city of Baltimore taking a direct hit. Washington and Baltimore could receive more than 61 centimetres of snowfall before the storm is over, the College Park, Maryland-based weather centre said.
The National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning stretching over an area from northern Virginia to New York City. Philadelphia is also in the storm's path.
Nearly 5,000 flights were cancelled on Saturday alone, according to website flightaware.com.