Harry Reid, the senate majority leader, said the senate would not be in session on Wednesday but would resume work on Thursday.

He said he doubted the senate would have any votes this week. Many congressional hearings were also called off.

'Record-breaking'

State offices in five major Pennsylvania cities were ordered closed, and Maryland and Massachusetts government offices were shut down, with only emergency and essential personnel required to report for duty.

The bus system in the Washington said it would not operate on Wednesday. The metropolitan area's subway was only operating the underground section of its system.

Patty Culhane, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Washington, said people expect to have the week off.

"We haven't dug out from the weekend snow storm. Roads are still pretty impassable. There's no telling when it's going to be over," she said.

"There are going to be gusts of up to 50 miles per hour … if the wind kicks up that much, we are going to see thousands of trees go down and the power lines will go down with them. It's pretty cold, and when you lose electricity, a lot of people lose heat.

"It's historic - since records stated being kept in the 1800s. We are about to break all those records. It's just a mess."

The storm comes as residents were still trying to recover from weekend snowfalls of 18 to 32 inches from Washington to southern New Jersey.