WASHINGTON - A second major snow storm in less than a week was blowing Tuesday toward the Washington area, where federal government offices were closed for a second day and utility workers struggled to restore power knocked out by a weekend blizzard.
The storm could leave as much as 20 inches (50 centimetres) of new snow in Washington and 18 inches (45 centimetres) near Philadelphia - a Northeast travel hub - by Wednesday night. Powerful winds and snow were expected to hit the East Coast by the afternoon.
Parts of the region were already buried under nearly 3 feet (a metre) of snow.
Airlines that shut down flights to Washington over the weekend warned that more would be cancelled and that travellers who didn't depart by Tuesday night were likely out of luck.
The storm hit the Midwest early Tuesday, closing schools and greeting commuters with slick, slushy roads in cities like Minneapolis and Chicago. In Chicago, Southwest Airlines cancelled all of its flights at Midway International Airport through Wednesday morning.
The storm that began Friday closed schools, and some 230,000 federal workers in Washington had Monday and Tuesday off. Power was still out for tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and utilities said deep snow was hindering some crews trying to fix damaged power lines before the next storm hits.
The snowbound U.S. Senate met only for a few minutes Monday, and was scheduled to hold two votes later Tuesday, as Senate leaders tried to bring members back to Washington to take up a jobs package. The House of Representatives called off all votes for the week because many members couldn't get back from their districts.
The White House, meanwhile, moved a Black History Month concert featuring Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson and Natalie Cole up a day to try to beat the storm.
In rural Maryland, a state police helicopter rescued a man stranded in a remote mountaintop home where he had been staying alone with no electricity since the storm this past weekend.
Residents worried they might be stuck at home hit grocery stores to stock up. A Safeway grocery store in the Dupont Circle area of Washington had milk and some bread Tuesday, but many other items were picked over from the last storm.
Washington and Philadelphia each need about another 9 inches (23 centimetres) to give the cities their snowiest winters since 1884, the first year records were kept.