Major snowstorm threatens E. Coast

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —A major storm moving up the Atlantic Coast on the last shopping weekend before Christmas threatened to shut down much of the region as officials warned of up to 20 inches of snow and significant power outages.

People stocked up on groceries and other staples Friday after the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings from the Carolinas to Rhode Island.

In Virginia, Gov. Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, placing the National Guard and other agencies on standby. Philadelphia officials also declared a state of emergency. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley urged motorists to stay home if possible.

Some shoppers were trying to get their holiday buying done before the snow hit.

"Most of them are coming in this morning to shop before they get snowed in," said Kayla Mahr at the River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg, Va.

The Federal Aviation Administration said departing flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were delayed by as much as an hour Friday because of rain and wind. United Airlines said it had already canceled more than 140 Saturday flights on the East Coast ahead of today's weather.

Forecasters expected up to 20 inches of snow through late today from the Washington metro area to West Virginia. They said it could be the most snow in the nation's capital since a February 2003 storm dumped nearly 27 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Up to a foot of snow was forecast in parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In southern West Virginia, Ron Hart's hardware store was swamped Friday as customers bought heaters and other emergency supplies just a week after a wind storm had knocked out electricity and caused an earlier emergency shopping surge.

"People are having to spend money on bare essentials versus Christmas," Hart said. "Our Christmas sales are considerably down because of what people are having to buy."

Highway crews in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia were spraying brine on heavily traveled roads to help prevent snow and ice from sticking.

On the Tennessee-North Carolina state line, the National Park Service closed a road through Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains after it got 4 inches of snow.