Nightly News   |  January 21, 2014

Arctic Blast Snarls Travel

Forecasters are now predicting the northeast will plummet into a deep freeze.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, a huge and sprawling winter storm is making its way up the east coast tonight with a lot of u.s. population centers in its path. it's proving to be the rare storm where predictions are changing for the worse as it approaches. it's been snowing sideways on the north lawn of the white house in washington for some time. most commuters in philadelphia bugged out and went home early based on dire predictions of a foot of snow or more. in braintree, mass at this hour, it's clear not enough people got out and got home on time. on the cape, it's a supporty night on the water in massachusetts, can you see this storm from space, some big cities in the teeth of it tonight from washington on up through philly, new york , boston and everywhere in between. elsewhere in the country, those trying to fly are finding themselves affected by the storm in the east. we begin all of our coverage tonight with nbc's tom costello in washington . good evening.

>> hi, brian, coming down at about an inch an hour here, it's expected to continue at that rate into the evening. the roads snow packed and icy, further west in western maryland they have up to 5, 6, 10 inches of snow, same in pennsylvania, west virginia and a lot of snow further northeast. mid january in the mid-atlantic, and predictions for the first real snowstorm in several years brought washington , d.c., to a standstill.

>> breezy cold lows from 4 to 10 degrees with 5 to 10 inches on the ground.

>> time lapse of the capital and the white house caught the storm moving in before noon. expecting five inches or more, the federal government shutdown. the u.s. capitol empty. area schools city and state governments all closed.

>> we plow it and salt it as well.

>> reporter: this plow driver was hard at work, in at 5:30 this morning and working late into the night .

>> at this point i think we beat mother nature right now, just keep our fingers crossed. we definitely don't count her out too early.

>> up and down the east coast , a heavy day of de-icing, but with more than 3,000 flights cancelled, many airports were virtual ghost towns . flight aware 's misery map show showing chicago, boston, new york the most affected airports.

>> we're from chicago, this is not a lot of snow.

>> with so many flights grounded amtrak picked up the slack, its trains running on time. and twitter was full of snow photos from cincinnati to west virginia and pennsylvania. in indiana this morning, the visibility was terrible. on i-65, between indianapolis and louisville, so many accidents they had to shut down the road. meanwhile, in new york and out on long island. an all out job just to stay ahead of the storm.

>> terrible, treacherous, really bad.

>> by midnight we're talking 10 inches or close to it in the city.

>> reporter: across the region it's he led to a rush on groceries, ice melt and shovels.

>> get one of these.

>> reporter: the snow is only round one. next comes the arctic cold.

>> and that's what we're bracing for here, they are now predicting we're going to be well below zero with the windchill at least tonight and probably for the next few days, we jump up ever so slightly to freezing on saturday, then back into the deep freeze again, it's going to be a long week or so. brian, back to you.

>> tom costello in a pretty desolate looking washington , d.c., tonight.