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Blizzard pounds U.S. east coast prompting closures, knocking out power

Click to play video: 'Freezing cold weather hits U.S. east coast' Freezing cold weather hits U.S. east coast
ABOVE: The deep freeze gripping much of the country is taking aim at the South tonight. Rain, sleet and snow are falling from Florida to the Carolinas. – Jan 4, 2018

Heavy snow and high winds pounded the U.S. East Coast along a front stretching from Maine as far south as North Carolina early on Thursday, knocking out power, icing over roadways and closing hundreds of schools.

The storm, the product of a rapid and rare sharp drop in barometric pressure known as bombogenesis that on Wednesday dumped snow on Florida’s capital Tallahassee for the first time in 30 years, was expected to last through the day.

READ MORE: Storm closures in Nova Scotia as severe winter weather predicted for province

States of emergencies were in effect in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia and blizzard warnings from the Canadian border as far south as Virginia.

Much of the eastern United States is in the grip of a sustained cold spell that has frozen part of Niagara Falls, played havoc with public works and impeded firefighting in places where temperatures barely broke -6 C.

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WATCH: “Bomb cyclone” winter storm heading to Canada’s east coast

Click to play video: 'Tracking the “bomb cyclone” winter storm' Tracking the “bomb cyclone” winter storm
Tracking the “bomb cyclone” winter storm – Jan 3, 2018

Areas around Boston were forecast to see about 30 cm of snow on Thursday, and the National Weather Service predicted a similar amount and wind gusts of up to 90 kmph in New York City.

Schools were ordered to close in both cities.

“This could bring some very dangerous conditions,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said late on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Bomb cyclone? What’s next for Eastern Canada’s brutally cold winter

“Both rush hours will be affected,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh earlier told a news conference. “Be patient. With the amount of snow we’re getting here, we could be plowing your street and a half hour later it could look like we haven’t been there.”

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 Southern snow

Private forecaster Accuweather said snow would fall quickly during the day, at a rate of several inches per hour, with the storm intensified by the bombogenesis effect.

Also known as a bomb cyclone, the phenomenon occurs when a storm’s barometric pressure drops by 24 millibars in 24 hours.

WATCH: Eastern Canada is about to get even colder thanks to a ‘bomb cyclone’

Click to play video: 'Eastern Canada is about to get even colder thanks to a ‘bomb cyclone’' Eastern Canada is about to get even colder thanks to a ‘bomb cyclone’
Eastern Canada is about to get even colder thanks to a ‘bomb cyclone’ – Jan 3, 2018

The rare type of storm struck the U.S. Southeast on Wednesday, also dumping snow in parts of South Carolina and eastern Georgia, said meteorologist Patrick Burke of the federal Weather Prediction Center.

More than 35,000 customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia early on Thursday, utilities reported online.

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A part of US-13 at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia was closed due to high winds early on Thursday while state transportation departments throughout the region reported dozens of delays due to deteriorating roads conditions.

READ MORE: Snow, strong winds in forecast for major winter storm set to hit N.S. Thursday

Late on Wednesday night, a baggage car and two sleeper cars on an Amtrak train travelling from Miami to New York, with 311 passengers aboard, derailed in as it was slowly backing into a station in Savannah, Georgia. No one was injured, an Amtrak spokesman said.

The cold has been blamed for at least nine deaths over the past few days, including two homeless people in Houston.

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