"The same storm that brought heavy snow and significant ice accumulations to the Southeast earlier this week has moved up the east coast, bringing with it significant winter weather to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Thursday and Friday," a news agency quoted National Weather Service as saying.

Forecasters said this winter storm could be the biggest of the season to many areas alongside its route.

Areas around the country's capital have braced for a dangerous combination of heavy snow, sleet and wind overnight, receiving about 28 cm of snow as of Thursday morning.

Although the snowfall tapered off, all runways of the Reagan National Airport in the capital area were closed due to accumulated snowfall. Only one runway of the Dulles International Airport in the area was open to aircraft arrivals and departures.

The winter storm caused significant flight cancellation nationwide on Thursday. As of 3 pm, 6,300 flights within, into or out of the US were cancelled, according data released by Flightaware.com

The snow and ice made travel difficult for commuters in Washington as the local government urged residents to stay inside and off the hazardous roads. The federal government instructed all non-emergency workers to stay at home Thursday and schools were also closed. Highways appeared to be virtually empty in the morning commute.

The nasty storm also knocked out power to over half a million residents across 14 states from southeast to northeast, including Georgia and Virginia.

Schools closed

The decision to keep New York City schools open drew criticism from teachers and some parents, who said it was unwise to expect children to travel in dangerous conditions.

"Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted," said United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew adding, "It was a mistake to open schools."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the decision, saying the city was not facing the kind of overwhelming snow that would make it impossible for kids to get to school.
Many other districts around the region kept students home. Francine Fencel, of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, sent her four kids to build igloos in the yard on their sixth snow day this year, but realized the family would be losing holiday time.

"We had all these long weekends scheduled in March when the kids were supposed to be off school, but those have all been taken back because of snow days," Fencel said.

As snow days backed up, school districts from Philadelphia to Charlotte, North Carolina, were considering adding days to make up for lost classes so 180-day minimums could be met.

Parents in Charlotte complained about plans to hold classes during the first two days of spring break in April.

"We understand that families and teachers and staff have made plans," said Charlotte schools spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte. "We're looking into additional options."

JPN/Agencies

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