WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The second major snowstorm in less than a week lashed the East Coast from Washington to New York on Wednesday, forcing federal and local government agencies, the United Nations and schools to close.
Cities across the Northeast ground to a halt as the National Weather Service predicted blizzard conditions up the coast with up to 16 inches in New York City, up to 22 inches in Philadelphia and 12 inches in Washington.
Hundreds of flights were canceled in the three cities and airlines relaxed ticket policies to allow passengers to change their plans without penalty, moves that could cloud the outlook for an industry already hard hit by the battered economy.
The United Nations said its New York headquarters would be closed on Wednesday due to the storm.
While government offices in Washington were also closed for the third straight day -- at a cost of some $100 million in lost productivity per day -- President Barack Obama was trying to maintain his schedule with a meeting with black leaders to discuss the economy and jobs.
The House of Representatives canceled votes for the week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would not be in session on Wednesday but would resume work on Thursday. He said he doubted the Senate would have any votes this week. Many congressional hearings were also called off.