Snowstorm at Times Square, January 23, 2016
Snowstorm at Times Square, January 23, 2016Reuters

At least 19 people are dead as a result of “Snowzilla”, the nickname that has been given to the blizzard pounding the United States East Coast, as of Saturday night.

Officials quoted by The Washington Post at around 8:00 p.m. EST said three people died while shoveling snow during the blizzard in New York City and two more died of hypothermia in Virginia, bringing weather-related deaths to at least 19.

The New York Police Department’s Chief of Department Jim O’Neill told reporters one person on Staten Island and two people in Queens died.

He released no further details on the deaths. A police spokesman said the medical examiner’s office will determine exactly how they died.

The snow is expected to keep falling until late Saturday or early Sunday morning, according to The Post.

The stormed dumped nearly two feet (60 cm) of snow on the Washington area overnight, and then unexpectedly gathered strength as it spun northward and headed into the New York metropolitan area, according to Reuters.

With the storm persisting through the night, accumulations of between 24 and 28 inches (60 to 71 cm) of snow are expected in New York City, northern New Jersey and western Long Island, with winds gusting to 45 mph (72 kmh), the National Weather Service said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the accumulation could be two feet or more "when all is said and done, making it in the top five of storms to hit New York City."

Public transportation in New York and New Jersey was halted as a result of the storm, while the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority suspended operations through Sunday in the capital, according to the news agency.

About 5,100 flights were canceled on Saturday and 2,800 more on Sunday, as United Airlines said it would not operate at Washington-area airports Saturday and Sunday, and would gradually resume service on Monday.