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Washington (AFP) – The U.S. government shut itself down Tuesday as a major snowstorm bearing down on the northeastern United States threatened to dump as much as 10 inches on Washington by day’s end.

Civil servants expecting to return to work after a bright and balmy Martin Luther King holiday Monday woke up to be told by the federal Office of Personnel Management to stay home.

Enough snow was expected to fall on the U.S. capital to turn the evening rush hour into a Beltway traffic nightmare, as the storm churns its way into New York and the northeastern New England states.

“The greatest totals are likely for southern New England, and gusty winds are likely in this area to accompany the snow,” the National Weather Service said. “It will be a winter wonderland for these areas.”

The Washington Post‘s popular Capital Weather Gang blog forecast up to 10 inches of snow in the capital ahead of sub-freezing temperatures for the rest of the week.

Many schools closed for the day, as did the National Zoo — giving its star attraction, baby panda Bao Bao, the day off just three days after going on public view for the first time.

Smithsonian museums opened their doors, however, as long as the weather permitted.

In New York, a storm alert was issue for noon Tuesday to 6:00 am Wednesday with as much as a foot forecast for the metropolitan region.

Temperatures were set to fall below normal, to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit with winds gusting to 35 miles per hour.

Dozens of schools either closed for the day or told parents to expect their youngsters to be dismissed from class earlier than usual.

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

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