Chaos leaves snowfall in much of the country

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With hotter-than-normal weather in the Washington metropolitan area, winter storms wreaked havoc across the United States on Thursday, shutting down much of Portland after the city experienced its second snowiest day on record and crippling travel from parts of the Pacific coast to the northern plains.

Nearly 11 inches (27 centimeters) of snow that fell in Portland paralyzed traffic during rush hour Wednesday night and trapped drivers on freeways. Some stayed overnight in their vehicles or abandoned them entirely as crews struggled to clear the roads.

The storms brought heavy snow to places that rarely see it, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and grounded or delayed thousands of flights.

For the first time since 1989, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning through Saturday for the mountains of southern California. Forecasters forecast "multiple rounds of new snowfall" with accumulations of 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) for the Sierra Nevada region.

The series of storms wreaked havoc from coast to coast. At one point on Wednesday, more than 65 million people in more than 20 states were under weather alerts.

The winter mix hit the north of the country hard, closing schools and offices and forcing churches to cancel Ash Wednesday services.

In Wyoming, the state Department of Transportation posted on social media that roads in much of the southern part of the state were impassable.

In Arizona, several interstate highways and other roads were closed due to high winds, dropping temperatures and snow. The Department of Transportation advised people not to travel. Forecasters said snow could fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) per hour on Thursday.

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