A FAST-MOVING cold front has plunged the US Midwest into a deep freeze, with up to a foot of snow predicted in parts of the east coast.

In Washington, federal government offices were closed and nearly 2000 flights were cancelled.

The cold front took temperatures below freezing as far south as northern Florida, while the high in and around Minnesota and the St Lawrence Valley was not expected to top 0ÚF (-18ÚC) yesterday.

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Forecaster AccuWeather stated: "Travel conditions will deteriorate with slippery roads and flight delays expected to unfold even in areas that avoid heavy snow."

The cold front across the eastern half of the country was forecast to drop up to two inches of snow from the Dakotas to the Ohio Valley. The snow will increase as the cold air picks up moisture near the Atlantic coast.

The mountains of Virginia and West Virginia will likely get up to 6in of snow. Other sites near the mid-Atlantic and south- eastern New England coast could get between six and 12 inches.

The forecaster said ­Washington could get its biggest snowfall since January 2011, when about 5in fell, but there were no signs of early precautions being taken in the city yesterday.

Baltimore officials, ­expecting up to 10in of snow in central and southern Maryland, issued a Code Blue alert for potentially dangerous conditions.

Philadelphia was ­expecting five to 10in of snow, with wind chills in the Poconos mountains dipping down to an icy -4ÚF (-20ÚC), according to local reports.

The National Weather Service said the cold air would produce snow downwind from the Great Lakes.

The polar front will be something of a repeat of the cold snap that gripped much of the US at the start of the year. Cold and snow snarled air and road travel, shattered temperature records and contributed to at least nine deaths.

In the middle of the cold front on Monday, Grand Marais, Minnesota, recorded -17ÚF (-27ÚC), the lowest temperature in the US outside Alaska, the weather service reported.