Massive storm snarls travel, cancels flights and closes schools

/ CBS/AP

200M+ Americans in path of huge winter storm

A sprawling storm closed schools, snarled travel and threatened homeless populations across a portion of the U.S. Wednesday. Snow and cold stretched from the Midwest to the East Coast, and heavy rain fell in the South.

Nationwide, more than 2,000 flights were canceled and more than 3,400 were delayed, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. The mid-Atlantic region was especially hard hit as airlines pulled flights ahead of the storm. Washington's Reagan National Airport led the pack Wednesday morning, with 37 percent of departures and 33 percent of arrivals canceled.

Amtrak earlier announced modifications to its Keystone service between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Snow fell along the East Coast, and schools in several parts of the U.S. closed amid predictions for messy afternoon commutes. Philadelphia closed city offices as of 1 p.m. and put a "code blue" into effect, putting extra teams out to encourage homeless people to get into shelters. Parts of Pennsylvania could get 6 inches of snow, CBS Philly reported.

New Jersey's governor declared a state of emergency with up to 4 inches of snow expected before turning to rain Wednesday night. "Our main concern in this storm is the impact on this evening's commute," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Farther west, snow forced Minneapolis and St. Paul schools and scores of other districts in Minnesota and Wisconsin to cancel classes. Schools, businesses and government offices in Kansas closed or announced plans to start late. Several school districts closed in Missouri, where officials said many roads across the northern half of the state were partially or completely snow covered.

Heavy rains caused problems in parts of the Deep South. Flood watches and warnings covered the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, and nearly all of Tennessee is at risk for floods.

The streak of bad weather is expected to continue through Wednesday night and in the days to come in some areas, forecasters said.

Tourists who made it into the Washington, D.C., area before the storm hit were unbothered.

"I love it. It's absolutely beautiful," said Rylee Maxwell, visiting from Toronto. "All the pictures kind of show in the summertime, so I think it's really nice to see all the white powdery snow everywhere."

Meanwhile, the Southwest braced for separate winter woes.

A "potent and cold" low pressure system was expected to drop up to 3 inches of snow on the outskirts of Las Vegas starting Wednesday night and continuing into Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.

Heavy snow was predicted for northern Arizona and significant rain for central Arizona deserts through Friday.

First published on February 20, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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