Storm pounds East Coast

Photo by Chris Knight

Photo by Chris Knight

WASHINGTON -- A blizzard howled up the East Coast on Wednesday, making roads from Baltimore to New York City so treacherous that even plow drivers pulled over and bringing more misery to a Mid-Atlantic region having the snowiest winter on record.

In Pennsylvania, the governor closed large stretches of major highways because the second major storm in less than a week was making travel too risky. Crashes closed nine miles of Interstate 80 and sent 17 people to the hospital, none with serious injuries.

In Washington, snow fell so hard that people on the National Mall could not see the Capitol. Many in the region were still without power from the historic storm over the weekend, and even more were expected to lose it during this one.

''The snow has just been relentless,'' said Washington Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, a D.C. native who said the back-to-back storms are like nothing he has ever experienced. ''It doesn't seem like we're getting much of a break.''

Up to 16 inches fell in parts of western Maryland and Reagan National Airport in Washington had more than 9 inches by midday, making it the snowiest winter on record in D.C. That was on top of totals up to 3 feet in some places from the weekend storm. And it was still snowing.

The streets of downtown Philadelphia, also hard hit by the last storm, were nearly vacant as people heeded the mayor's advice to stay home.

Entrance ramps to closed highways were blockaded and the Pennsylvania National Guard had Humvees stocked with food and blankets ready to help anyone who got stuck.

''For your safety, do not drive,'' Gov. Ed Rendell said. ''You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road.''

In Arlington, Va., streets that had been packed with people playing in the snow over the weekend were also empty.

''I've seen enough,'' said Bill Daly, 57, as gusts of wind and snow lashed his face. ''It's scary and beautiful at the same time. I wanted to shovel but thought if I had a heart attack it could be a while before anybody found me in this kind of weather.''

In Washington, the federal government was closed for a third straight day. The longest weather-related government shutdown ever was in 1996, when employees did not have to go to work for a full week.

In northwest Washington, a Caribou Coffee was standing room only. Most people pecked away at laptop computers as snow fell steadily outside.