A huge blizzard has begun to hit the United States east coast and is expected to dump near-record levels of snow from Washington to New York. More than 50 million people have been warned that a potentially paralysing storm will drop up to 30 inches of snow in hours. Southern states are already blanketed less than 8 inches. Thousands of flights have been cancelled and people told to stay home.

Weather system affects a huge swath of the country, from Arkansas in the south to Massachusetts in the northeast, with eight people killed so far.

States of emergency declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and parts of other states. Washington's transport system - the second busiest in the US- will remain closed during the weekend.

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