At least 20 people dead in weather-related accidents amid severe blizzard in US

New York officials say the storm was one of the top three snowstorms since records began

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A pedestrian walks south on 13th Street in the blowing snow, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 in northwest Washington. Image: Alex Brandon / AP/Press Association Images

Millions of Americans are preparing to dig themselves out after a mammoth blizzard brought much of the eastern US to a standstill.

A ban on non-emergency travel has been lifted across several states, including New York and Maryland.

Eleven states declared emergencies, at least 20 people died in weather-related accidents and hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power.

The weather-related deaths were resulting from car crashes, cases of hypothermia, and people attempting to shovel snow.

The heaviest reported fall was in West Virginia where 1 metre of snow was recorded.

Winter Storm Jonas had dumped up to 30 inches (75cm) of snow on the Washington DC area by Saturday night, transforming the nation's capital into a wintry ghost town.

As lightning flashed and thundersnow rumbled, President Barack Obama was holed up at the White House.

"Find a safe place and stay there," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told city-dwellers.

Some 85 million people in at least 20 states were in the path of the storm, with a wing-span extending from Arkansas to New York.

More than 7,000 flights have been cancelled, and public transit is closed in New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey.

The travel disruption is also expected into the start of the working week, with some airlines already cutting their Monday services.

In New York, officials said it was one of the top three snowstorms since records began - with 25 inches (62.5cm) falling by 7pm on Saturday night, and further flurries forecast overnight.

A statewide travel ban enforced by Governor Andrew Cuomo saw the usually bustling streets of Manhattan come to a standstill, although the restrictions were lifted this morning.

Meanwhile, tides higher than those caused by 2012 Superstorm Sandy have been washing through the streets of Jersey Shore towns.

States of emergency

The National Weather Service said hurricane-force winds of 75mph (120km) were recorded on Dewey Beach, Delaware.

The National Guard was sent to help motorists stranded overnight, including hundreds on Interstate 75 in Kentucky.

The storm knocked out power in many states, including 150,000 households in North Carolina and 90,000 homes in New Jersey.

More than 7,600 flights have been cancelled this weekend, according to FlightAware.

A Good Samaritan was shot dead by a snow-stranded motorist he tried to help on a North Carolina highway, while Virginia State Police say they responded to nearly 1,000 weather-related traffic crashes.

States of emergency were declared in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Delaware, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and the District of Columbia.

It is feared the weather system could wreak as much as $1bn (around €920m) in damage.

Many stores were left with bare shelves as residents stocked up on food and alcohol, preparing to spend the weekend indoors.

The storm was predicted to be among the top five biggest ever recorded for Washington and New York, according to the National Weather Service's Paul Kocin.

Jonas is forecast to easily surpass the 2010 storm dubbed "snowmageddon".

It could even top the 28in of snow in January 1922 that was Washington's worst recorded storm.