A colossal winter storm forecast to bring heavy snow to at least 15 states over the weekend was taking shape over the Plains early Thursday.
The impact of the storm was daunting: 80 million people were under either a blizzard watch, winter storm watch, winter storm warning, winter weather advisory or freezing rain advisory as of Thursday morning.
Meteorologists predict the storm will focus most of its power on Washington, D.C., which could see around 2 feet of snow and dangerous blizzard conditions from Friday through Sunday. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins said the impact of the storm could be "historic" for the nation's capital, Baltimore, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
A patchwork of winter storm watches and advisories were in effect over a 1,300-mile area from New Jersey to Mississippi and up as far as Nebraska.
Major cities in the mammoth watch area included Philadelphia; Baltimore; Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee.
See how the snow caused Washington to grind to a halt:
"This will be bad," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "It is going to snow hard and it's going to be hard for road crews to keep up so driving will be difficult."
Roth added that the weather would likely impact air travel.
D.C. authorities said the city has 14 new dump trucks ready to be deployed to salt and plow major streets, along with six new trucks for residential streets, NBC Washington reported.
If 2 feet of snow fall in the nation's capital, it will be the city's second-biggest snowstorm ever: The largest was a 1922 storm that produced 28 inches.
Parts of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina were forecast for at least 1 foot of snow, and at least 6 inches was set to fall north up the I-95 corridor through New York City and Philadelphia.
More than 3 inches was also expected in parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern parts of Indiana and Ohio.
Despite the storm being days away, a woman had to be rescued by by firefighters after driving her car into a frozen river near Ashland City, Tennessee.
A vehicle accident on River Road this afternoon left one young lady cold and wet but not injured. Firefighters with The Ashland City Fire Department used a swift water raft to rescue her.
Although the real weather was not set to start until Friday, the early stages of the system had begun to dump localized snow over parts of the central Plains on Wednesday night, according to The Weather Channel.
As at 5:18 a.m., there were scattered patches of snow over South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.
This system was expected to move eastward through Thursday and Friday before intensifying on Friday night.
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