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Washington - Tourists flocked to the monuments in the nation's capital Sunday to enjoy 50-degree temperatures before yet another winter storm was expected to dump up to a foot of snow on parts of the East Coast.
In the latest blast of a harsh winter, forecasters said a layer of ice and 8 to 12 inches of snow was possible by the end of today in Washington and the Mid-Atlantic region, while 6 to 8 inches of snow was predicted across parts of southern Pennsylvania. Nearly a foot of snow was expected in parts of New Jersey.
"I'm over it," said Yasmon Hanks, 24, of Hampton, Va., echoing thoughts of many who've been cooped up inside this winter. Hanks visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall with her husband, Lynwood, and two young children. She was happy to be able to get outside, she said, because "I thought it was going to be way worse."
Elsewhere on the Mall, joggers were out in shorts and T-shirts, families flew kites and tour guides led groups around landmarks such as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Cherry blossom trees were growing new buds for the spring.
But oh how so much can change in a matter of hours. More snow and ice, perhaps as much as 2 inches falling every hour, were on the way ahead of this morning's commute. By late Sunday afternoon, rain was moved into the Washington area, temperatures dropped and the city had declared a snow emergency beginning early today.
On Sunday night, the federal government announced that its Washington-area offices will be closed today. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which sets leave policies for 300,000 federal workers in the region, says non-emergency personnel are granted excused absences for the day.
A round of wintry precipitation moved across much of the nation Sunday, bringing a mix of freezing rain and heavy snow to central and eastern states. Authorities warned of possible power outages and flight disruptions from weather that could affect millions.
In Pittsburgh, snow began falling about dawn and was expected to taper off before another band of snow hits early today. Forecasters were expecting 3 to 6 inches total. Philadelphia was expected to get four to 8 inches through today. More than 6 inches would make it the city's second snowiest winter, surpassing 65.5 inches that fell in 1995-96.
Nearly 1,900 flights in the United States were canceled and another 1,863 delayed Sunday evening, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com. The bulk of the problems were in Dallas, Chicago and Newark, N.J. There are more than 30,000 flights in the United States on a typical day.
Another 1,612 flights for today were also already canceled, with Washington's Regan National airport accounting for 246 of them.
In Ohio, among those braving treacherous conditions was Patty Lee, who drove some 20 miles from Cincinnati to suburban Blue Ash for a job interview. She joked that her first job test was making it through the icy parking lot without falling down.
"The roads are deteriorating pretty quickly," she said after returning to Cincinnati.
A suspension bridge over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Kentucky was closed Sunday because of ice covering its hard-to-treat metal grid deck.
Freezing rain and sleet moved across Kentucky, making road travel treacherous Sunday. Officials warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel. Parts of the state could receive up to 8 inches of sleet and snow through Monday. Churches throughout the state canceled services.
The eastern West Virginia panhandle could get up to a foot of snow. That sent residents on a hunt for food, water and supplies.
In the Midwest, arctic cold temperatures hit Nebraska. Forecasters said Sunday's single-digit high temperatures could set records across the state. And wind chills 20-to-35 degrees below zero were reported Sunday.
Snowfall amounts across Indiana range from nearly 9 inches in northwestern Indiana to 1.7 inches in Indianapolis.
The same weather system inundated California with rain. Four hikers were rescued overnight after they became trapped by rising floodwaters in Malibu Creek State Park. Authorities were warning of mudslides and swollen creeks and drainage channels.
South of Washington, joggers were enjoying 60-degree weather Sunday on a trail along the James River in Richmond, Va., which was expected to receive as many as 7 inches of snow Monday.
"It's wonderful to have this little peek into spring," said Katilynn Allan, 22, a financial planner who was training for an upcoming 10K run. "Richmond weather is very unpredictable, so you have to take advantage of days that are nice."