A massive winter storm dubbed Snowzilla has caused chaos along the US east coast, and has stranded Australian travellers, after thousands of flights were cancelled, roads shut down and public transport crippled.
The blizzard powered by storm-force winds hit more than 60 million people, with cities including New York, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia brought to a standstill and at least 19 people killed in storm-related incidents.
Qantas was among the casualties.
With 76cm of snow expected to cover New York, and the city under a travel ban, John F Kennedy airport almost ground to a halt, with close to 1000 flights cancelled.
Qantas was forced to cancel its two flights between JFK and Los Angeles, disrupting hundreds of travellers.
The JFK to LA flight is used by travellers connecting with Qantas flights from LA to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
More than 10,000 flights were cancelled across the US, with Qantas’ US codeshare partner American Airlines scrubbing 898 flights.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is one of many Australians on the US east coast as part of the annual multi-city G’Day USA trade promotion.
Ms Bishop, in New York, fortuitously does not have to travel to the next leg, Washington DC, until Tuesday.
“Our schedule has remained on track, notwithstanding the weather conditions,” Ms Bishop’s spokesperson told AAP.
Thirteen people were killed in weather-related car crashes in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. One person died in Maryland and three in New York City while shovelling snow. Two died of hypothermia in Virginia, officials said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “very likely one of the worst snowstorms in our history” and warned motorists risked being arrested if found driving on the city’s streets.
Nelson Aspen, a longtime New Yorker and entertainment reporter for Seven Network’s Sunrise morning program, said the wind was so strong snow was being blown horizontally and anyone walking outside would be up to their shins in snow.
“I have friends visiting from Perth and it was great seeing it through their eyes because they have never seen snow before and were in wonderment,” Aspen, who had to postpone a planned jog with Ms Bishop in Central Park, said.
“There were kids and families out on sleds having fun.
“The bummer is Broadway shows and restaurants are shut, so visitors to the city are restricted with what they can do.”
But one resident of the capital is lapping up the blizzard – Tian Tian, a panda at the National Zoo. Footage of him playing outside quickly went viral.
What’s in a name?
The storm has been tagged with several nicknames, including winter storm Jonas.
The Washington Post asked its online readers to pick a name, with Snowzilla, Snowino, Snowtastrophe and Blizzard of 2016 among the choices.
The winner in the political town, not surprisingly, was Make Winter Great Again, playing on presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.
“We’ve thought about it long and hard this morning and although Make Winter Great Again has the most votes – and is certainly hilarious – it doesn’t make for a good name, or a good hashtag,” the Post told readers.
“So we’re going with the runner-up: #Snowzilla!”
Tides higher than those caused by Superstorm Sandy three years ago pushed water onto roads along the Jersey Shore and Delaware coast.
Some evacuations were reported along the New Jersey Shore, where thousands of residents had to abandon their homes during the devastating 2012 storm.