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Snowstorm misses Washington, pounds areas west of nation's capital

The heavy wet snow prompted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to declare a state of emergency as more than 200,000 residents lost power.  In Chicago, a roof collapsed under the weight of the snow and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania were also hit hard. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

Like so many things in Washington, D.C., the late-winter storm that was supposed to bring the nation’s capital to a crawl on Wednesday proved to be overhyped and underwhelming.

The official forecast was 4 to 8 inches, but by late evening no snow had accumulated, only slush that could make for a slick roads for the Thursday morning commute.

“We just didn’t have the cold air that we needed to produce a snow event here at the capital. It was not produced by the storm and it did not come in from the storm,” Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore said on NBC’s Nightly News.

Boston may see as much as 12 inches of snowfall as the storm moves through the East Coast, and strong winds are expected to batter the New England coastline. Weather Channel meteorologist Reynolds Wolf reports from Front Royal, Virginia.

The real snowfall occurred west of Washington, in towns like Front Royal, Va., which got pummeled with 17 inches of heavy, wet snow. It caused power outages up and down the mid-Atlantic, with crews struggling to keep up.  

National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro described the snow as gloppy and “consistent with wallpaper paste.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency and more than 200,000 residents of the state were without power, especially along the Interstate 81 corridor, which tracks the western border of Virginia. Emergency crews in northern Virginia responded to dozens of weather related accidents throughout the area.

In D.C., fear of a commute-crippling storm closed federal offices and most school districts in the area. Nearly 4,000 salt trucks and plows set out to clear roads throughout northern Virginia.

More than 600 flights were canceled at Reagan National airport and more than 500 at Washington Dulles.

The storm spun just off the mid-Atlantic coast, feeding moisture to the west. Where the air was cool, particularly around Baltimore, it produced sleet. Where it was colder, outside of Washington and especially the Shenandoah Valley to the west, it produced snow.

As the storm lumbered north, it threatened high wind and waves along the coast, including in some cities and towns battered by Hurricane Sandy last fall.

Authorities in Delaware urged people to get out of flood-prone areas and the New Jersey towns of Brick and Toms River issued voluntary evacuation notices and encouraged people in low-lying areas to get their cars to higher ground.

Jim Mone / AP

A storm system stretching from the Dakotas to the Florida Panhandle is predicted to bring snow to the mid-Atlantic states.

The storm originated in Montana and moved east over the Ohio Valley, dropping 6 inches of snow on Chicago on Tuesday. More than 1,100 flights were canceled in and out of that city’s two airports on Tuesday, according to NBC Chicago.

In the Chicago suburbs, part of the roof of a banquet hall caved in Tuesday afternoon, and snow poured into one wing of the building. Fire officials in the city of Des Plaines said that the building was empty and no one was hurt.

Illinois banquet hall roof collapses under weight of snow

The storm was forecast to dump a mix of rain and snow on the New York area Wednesday, leading to as much as 2 inches of accumulation in New York City.

On Thursday, the low-pressure storm powering the storm is expected to move off the New England coast, but bands of snow wrapping back to the west should complicate travel there.

Andrew Rafferty and Reuters contributed to this report.

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