Deadly winter storm pounds East Coast

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Deadly winter storm pounds East Coast
Snow is shoveled from a walkway during a snow storm in the early morning in northwest Washington, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. After pummeling wide swaths of the South, a winter storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in Washington as it marched Northeast and threatened more power outages, traffic headaches and widespread closures for millions of residents. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A Secret Service K-9 unit does a security sweep in the falling snow in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. After pummeling wide swaths of the South, a winter storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in Washington as it marched Northeast and threatened more power outages, traffic headaches and widespread closures for millions of residents. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A plow removes snow from the sidewalk in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, as people walk through the snow. After pummeling wide swaths of the South, a winter storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in Washington as it marched Northeast and threatened more power outages, traffic headaches and widespread closures for millions of residents. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A man clears snow in front of the Gold Shing Market in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Snow and sleet are falling on the East Coast from North Carolina to New England a day after sleet, snow and ice bombarded the Southeast. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A bicyclist rides through a snowstorm in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Snow and sleet are falling on the East Coast, from North Carolina to New England, a day after sleet, snow and ice bombarded the Southeast. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Pedestrians use umbrellas as they walk through falling snow in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Snow and sleet are falling on the East Coast from North Carolina to New England a day after sleet, snow and ice bombarded the Southeast. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Elisabeth Wilbur of Burke, Va. skis near Lake Braddock in Burke, Va., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. After pummeling wide swaths of the South, a winter storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in Washington as it marched Northeast and threatened more power outages, traffic headaches and widespread closures for millions of residents. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
A Georgia transportation sign warns motorists on Interstate 75 on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Kennesaw, Ga., about 20 miles north of metro Atlanta. A winter snow storm is blowing into Georgia in what the National Weather Service predicted to be "an event of historical proportions." (AP Photo/David Tulis)
Micah Hulit, center, falls down in the snow as he and Aaron Warren slide down a hill in a winter snow storm that the National Weather Service predicted to be "an event of historical proportions" blows into Georgia's Bartow County in Euharlee, Ga., about 40 miles north of metro Atlanta, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
Snow accumulates on a pickup truck as Ryan Warmack, center, walks toward a truck stop trying to locate tire chains during a winter snow storm in Emerson, Ga., about 40 miles north of metro Atlanta, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. The Atlanta area dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned of a "catastrophic" second blow in the form of a thick layer of ice that threatened to bring widespread power outages and leaving people in their cold, dark homes for days. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
Barrow County residents walk out of one of the state's oldest covered bridges, about 40 miles north of metro Atlanta in Euharlee, Ga., as snow accumulates around them during a winter snow storm that the National Weather Service predicted to be "an event of historical proportions," on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
A truck slowly travels on a snow covered Alabama highway 176 Tuesday Feb. 11, 2014 in Dog Town, Ala. A winter storm dropped from 1 inch to 3 inches of wintry precipitation across a wide area, turning trees and roads white and forcing hundreds of schools, businesses and government offices to close or open late. (AP Photo/Hal Yeager)
An Alabama State Trooper takes a moment for a photo of the snow on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Vinemont, Ala. A winter storm dropped several inches of snow on North Alabama overnight and more is expected. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Ryann and Terri Camacho walk down Alabama highway 176 after checking on a neighbors cows Tuesday Feb. 11, 2014 in Dog Town, Ala. as the area is being blanketed with an unusual amount of snow. (AP Photo/Hal Yeager)
Tim Fields, with Keenum Excavation, clears the road with a grader along Hwy 31 on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Vinemont, Ala. Fields was contracted by the state to help clear roads after a winter storm dropped several inches of snow on North Alabama overnight and more is expected. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
A vehicle travels on Stevens Rd. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Greenville, S.C. Snow and icy conditions were expected to continue in the state through Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
A car travels on Blacks Dr. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Greenville, S.C. Snow and icy conditions were expected to continue through Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
John Szeto walks along Blacks Drive on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Greenville, S.C. Residents woke to snow that was expected to continue throughout the morning hours. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Snow and ice build up on the street signs for Snow and McDaniel Streets on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Greer, S.C. Snow and icy conditions were expected to continue in the state through Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
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(Reuters) - A deadly and intensifying winter storm packing heavy snow, sleet and rain pelted a huge swath of the U.S. East Coast on Thursday, grounding flights and shuttering schools and government offices.

Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from Georgia up to Maine, and the powerful system could blanket the Atlantic Coast over the next two days with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cms) of snow, said Jared Guyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It's a very messy scenario," Guyer said. "Roads remain treacherous."

The Washington, D.C., area awoke to its heaviest snowfall of the winter. The federal government was closed, along with school districts in the area.

Washington's bus service was suspended, and residents were advised to stay home if possible rather than risk a commute through snow accumulations of as much as a foot throughout the area.

All runways at the city's Dulles and Reagan National airports were closed, as well as schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.

About 4,470 domestic and international flights were canceled and another roughly 290 were delayed early on Thursday morning, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

ICE STORM

The storm system, which has dumped heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain from eastern Texas to the Carolinas since Tuesday, was blamed for at least 13 deaths in the Southern region and for knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

An ice storm warning was in effect for parts of central Georgia on Thursday morning, after about one inch of ice had accumulated there and into South Carolina. Schools across the South were closed again on Thursday.

Roughly 8 inches of ice and heavy snow has now accumulated in parts of North and South Carolina, Guyer said, possibly a historic level.

"The catastrophic part is mostly the ice across the South where they're getting anywhere from a half inch to an inch of ice accumulating on power lines and trees," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

Traffic on interstate highways ground to a halt on Wednesday as the snowfall picked up quickly and fatal road accidents and weather-related deaths were reported in Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

Governors declared states of emergencies from Louisiana to New Jersey.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Additional reporting by Bill Trott; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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