Winter storm packing heavy snow and strong winds pummel US East Coast, 70 million affected

A powerful winter storm packing heavy snow and high winds has pummeled the United States East Coast, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights as severe weather alerts were sounded across the region of nearly 70 million people.

With blizzard warnings in effect, cities including New York and Boston bore the brunt of the storm on Saturday morning, but the far-reaching system also hit the mid-Atlantic.

Freeze alerts were raised as far south as Florida, where the National Weather Service (NWS) warned of “scattered to isolated falling iguanas from trees” as plunging temperatures temporarily paralysed the large lizards, which can weigh up to 20 pounds.

Salt machines and snowploughs crawled along the streets of New York, where as much as 4 inches of snow had fallen by Saturday morning.

Mayor Eric Adams urged New York residents to stay at home. “It’s a good day to stay home if you don’t have to go out!,” he said.

On Saturday, more than 3,500 flights were cancelled travelling within, into or out of the US, according to flight tracker FlightAware, and 847 flights have already been cancelled for Sunday.

Cancellations on Friday totaled more than 1,450.

The NWS warned of “dangerous blizzard conditions” along portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, with predicted snowfall accumulations of more than 2 feet (61cm) in the area around Boston.

The snowfall rate would range from 2-4 inches per hour, and strong winds would cause “scattered power outages”.

“Expect whiteout conditions and nearly impossible travel at times,” the service said.