New York - Millions of Americans are bracing for potentially the worst winter storm of the season with blizzards forecast to dump over 60 centimetres of snow on the East Coast Tuesday, 14 March, closing schools and spelling travel chaos.
The looming storm also forced the postponement of the first Washington meeting between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel from Tuesday until Friday, 17 March, White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced.
Thousands of flight cancellations
Thousands of flights have been cancelled over the next two days, with airports in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia hardest hit, according to the tracking service FlightAware.
South African Airways too issued an alert on Monday night, advising all passengers that due to the adverse weather conditions, flights have been cancelled.
SEE: ALERT: SAA cancels US flights due to winter storm Stella
Affected flights are those to and from Washington, Dulles International Airport (Washington DC) operated via Accra, Kotoka International Airport, Ghana and to and from New York, John F Kennedy International Airport.
Overall, more than 4 000 flights within, into or out of the United States have been cancelled for Tuesday, mostly along the East Coast, according to FlightAware.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said airport authorities had supplies of cots and other essential items to accommodate any stranded passengers.
Weather advisories spread far inland in the US. In Chicago, where about five centimetres of snow fell Monday, airlines canceled 583 flights at Midway and O'Hare airports, setting up more potential travel havoc.
Video footage from Chicago O'Hare airport show the aircraft covered in snow and barely operating under the extreme conditions. Check it out -
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Winter Storm Stella to intensify
"This should be a very serious blizzard," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference, announcing that schools would be closed Tuesday, with 41 to 51 centimetres of snow expected to fall during the day.
"High end could be as much as 60 centimetres, which would therefore put this in the category of one of the biggest snowstorms in recent memory," he added.
Snow is expected to begin overnight and intensify from 06:00 to noon on Tuesday, with snow falling as much as five to 10 centimetres per hour.
Temperatures on Monday were already icy, with afternoon highs expected to be around -9 to -1°C below normal from the northern Plains to the Mid-Atlantic region.
The heaviest snow is expected to wallop New York and other coastal areas north of Philadelphia up to New England, National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Di Spigna told AFP.
"We're expecting it to be the worst snow of the season," she said, after previous winter temperatures "well above normal."
New York is likely to see winds as strong as 64 to 80 kilometres per hour and the city should brace for whiteout conditions on Tuesday morning, with some coastal flooding expected, De Blasio said.
This is what the storm currently looks like -
New York last year experienced the biggest snowstorm in the city's history with a record 70 centimetres falling in Central Park in 24 hours. Winter Storm Jonas paralyzed parts of the Northeast and left 18 people dead.
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