Bracing for the big storm

- People living up and down the east coast are bracing for what is expected to be an historic winter storm this weekend.

Government offices in Washington will be closing at midday today.

States of emergency have already been declared in the District of Columbia, as well as five neighboring states

The National Weather Service is warning that the storm could bring more than two feet of snow to the nation's capital, causing more than a billion dollars in damage.

Back here in Houston, passengers should get ready for a long day as flights get canceled and delayed at both Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports.

United and Southwest have already canceled flights to places like Washington and Baltimore ahead of the storm.

Thousands of flights are expected to be grounded tomorrow.

The best advice, call your air carrier or check online before heading out to the airport.

The latest on the heavy snowfall expected to hit the Washington area and the Northeast. (all times local)

7:15 a.m.

Pennsylvania's governor has declared a state of emergency as an approaching winter storm targeting the Washington area and the Northeast is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on much of the southern part of the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf's declaration allows authorities to respond quickly to any problems. State officials are expected to have more to say at a Friday afternoon news conference.

Forecasters say snow accumulations over 12 inches are expected in the southern half of the state, with the Gettysburg area and southeastern Pennsylvania likely to see the most snow.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority on Friday will discuss storm preparations.

Amtrak's Keystone Service between Harrisburg and New York will have a modified schedule with fewer trains.

Meanwhile, utility crews are dealing with a major water main break in Pittsburgh's Banksville neighborhood.

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7:15 a.m.

A statement from the Shelby County Mayor's Office says snow and freezing rain are creating hazardous driving conditions in the Memphis area.

Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. says salt and sand trucks have been out since early Friday morning treating main roadways, but icy conditions have been reported on some bridges and overpasses. Officials urged people to stay off the roads if possible.

Forecasters say snow and sleet accumulations could reach 4 to 6 inches in West Tennessee. In Memphis, where blizzard conditions are possible, salt trucks and plows are ready to clear roads of snow and ice. Three warming centers are open for those seeking refuge from below-freezing temperatures.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has ordered state offices in West Tennessee closed all day. Other state offices will close at noon.

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7:15 a.m.

A major winter storm dropped 6 inches of snow in the Little Rock area overnight, breaking a snowfall record set more than 20 years ago.

The National Weather Service says it's recorded 6.2 inches of snow at its office in North Little Rock, just outside the capital city. The winter storm shut down schools and state government offices in central Arkansas on Friday as the snow continues to fall.

A winter storm warning remains in effect until noon Friday. The National Weather Service says strong winds with gusts of up to 40 mph will make driving difficult, especially in the eastern part of the state.

The state's largest utility, Entergy Arkansas, says about 12,500 homes and businesses are without power Friday morning, primarily in the eastern half of the state.

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4:25 a.m.

The National Weather Service says the blizzard about to hit the Eastern United States could rank near the top 10 ever to hit the region.

Meteorologist Paul Kocin with the service's Weather Prediction Center says snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches an hour could continue for 24 hours or more in the area. That puts estimates at more than 2 feet for Washington, a foot to 18 inches for Philadelphia and 8 inches to a foot in New York.

Five states and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency ahead of the slow-moving system. The federal government announced Thursday night that its offices would close at noon Friday.

Weather service director Louis Uccellini says resident should expect brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow.

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