Nightly News   |  February 05, 2010

D.C. braces for 'snow-pocalypse'

If weather predictions prove accurate, the massive winter storm barreling toward the nation's capitol could bring blizzard conditions and up to 30 inches of snow. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

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>>> good evening. it's often fashionable to make fun of washington , d.c. , how it's the center of power and how even an inch of snow, even a big rainfall can almost paralyze the city. tonight that city and many others along the eastern seaboard are preparing for what is expected to be a history-making snowstorm. blizzard warnings now posted for the nation's capital, north to delaware on up to the jersey shore . predictions of as much as 30 inches of snow in the washington , d.c. , metropolitan area it could take days to dig out. and before it's over, this storm will likely affect over 30 million americans in its path. this is the white house while we could still see it. snowfall could increase to a rate of three inches per hour at the height of this storm . we have it all covered tonight starting with our own tom costello out in it in washington tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. this is a wet, heavy snow. the kind of snow they fear that might actually collapse roofs if it gets too big or too heavy. we can tell you they are looking at this to continue through the night. it's going to pick up and snow until 10:00 tomorrow night. in d.c. and the surrounding suburbs, this massive storm has already earned a tv nickname. they're calling it snowpocalipse.

>> the wind is picking up, the temperature dropping.

>> these could be the worst travel conditions tonight.

>> reporter: it could be the biggest storm in nearly 90 years. the national weather service now warns the nation's capital is in for 20 to 30 inches of snow with 30 mile-an-hour winds and blizzard conditions.

>> it's bearing down right on the 95 corridor. and that's where we anticipate that the snowfall will be heaviest.

>> reporter: already, maryland, virginia, west virginia and d.c. have declared states of emergency. and across the region, panicked shoppers have emptied entire grocery shelves of the basic. no lunch meat, no cheese, no veggies, nothing.

>> we had about six cashiers on until about 1:30 in the morning and it was eight or ten deep.

>> reporter: this storm is huge stretching from indiana, across ohio, kentucky, west virginia and up the mid atlantic . amtrak is suspending service. airlines pulling their planes out of affected cities. passengers scrambling to get ahead of the storm and power crews bracing for the worst.

>> the wet, heavier snow is going to accumulate on power lines and tree branches that will come in contact with those powerlines, and inevitably we are going to have power outages.

>> reporter: why so much snow? el nino gets the credit from pushing wet weather from the west and south across the country and up the mid atlantic . washington has already had 27 inches of snow this season. with another 20 would easily bury boston in total snowfall.

>> that would bring us up to the second snowiest winter on record in washington , and the winter isn't over yet.

>> reporter: d.c. 's biggest snowstorm on record 28 inches in 1922 . known as the knickerbocker store after the roof of the knickerbocker theater collapsed, killing 98 people. now nearly 90 years later, washington is shut down bracing for snowmageddon. that's the other nickname for this storm . a typical season, we get 15 inches here in d.c. again, we had 27 so far this season. now we have at least another 20 on the way. brian, back to you.

>> they'll be talking about this winter for some time in washington . tom costello, thanks.

>>> bob ryan is the man