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Winter Weather Threatens East Coast Commute as Icy Spell Looms

Deep Freeze Blankets 21 States Across the Country 2:15

A winter weather system is racing across the country almost at freeway speed and dumping snow across a 2,000 mile corridor — to be followed by an arctic blast packing the coldest air of the season.

In Washington, 4 inches of snow fell on the Capitol grounds on Tuesday as lawmakers gathered for the first day of the new Congress. Parts of Virginia got 6 inches or more. New York was dusted for the first time in a month.

In all, winter weather watches were in place across 22 states, from Washington state to New Jersey. Avalanche warnings were posted in Washington state after snow fell there and in the Rockies. By the time it moves off the East Coast, the system will have dumped snow from coast to coast.

The suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, where the worst of the storm was Monday, reported more than 7 inches of snow from the system. The storm caused travel chaos in the Midwest on Monday, hitting Chicago with 5 inches of snow and canceling or delaying hundreds of flights. Chicago deployed more than 300 snowplows on Tuesday.

After the snow comes the cold. A blast of frigid air is set to hit the eastern two-thirds of the nation, covering 240 million people, on Wednesday and Thursday. High temperatures could be 35 degrees below normal in the Midwest, and Chicago may not reach zero degrees on Wednesday. That would be the first time since Jan. 6, 2014, according to The Weather Channel.

On Wednesday morning, wind chills are expected to approach minus-50 in International Falls, Minnesota and dip to the low teens or single digits in much of the Northeast.

Chicago Deploys More Than 300 Snow Plows to Combat Storm 0:33

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— Alexander Smith and Erin McClam