WASHINGTON — With a monster winter storm bearing down on the Mid-Atlantic Friday afternoon, many retailers and shopping centers stretching from Kentucky and Tennessee to the Carolinas and Maryland closed early Friday and were likely to stay closed on Saturday.
The National Weather Service issued blizzard watches up and down the Eastern Seaboard and forecasters placed the nation’s capital in the bull’s eye of the storm.
With the blizzard expected to dump as much as two feet in the Washington metropolitan region, transit authorities made the unprecedented move of shutting down the Metro subway system that connects the District of Columbia to Maryland and Virginia, and all bus service on Saturday and Sunday.
“I want to be very clear with everybody,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a Friday morning news conference. “We see this as a major storm. It has life and death implications and the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way.”
The federal government shut down at noon.
The first snowflakes began to fall here around 1 p.m. The storm is expected to pick up speed overnight into Saturday with wind gusts expected to reach as high as 50 miles an hour. Baltimore could get as much as 30 inches in some suburbs, while Philadelphia and New York could see between a foot and two feet of snow, accompanied by high winds.
North Carolina and Tennessee were the first to get hit by the storm early Friday with ice and snow, as it crept up the East Coast, threatening some 50 million people over a vast area with high winds, crippling snowfalls, ice and power outages.
Retailers were forced to close stores early on Friday and were facing potential closures this weekend and possibly into early next week.
Charles Crerand, associate director of CBRE Asset Services — who oversees Mazza Gallerie, anchored by Neiman Marcus and includes such other tenants as Ann Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, and The Shops at Wisconsin Place, anchored by Bloomingdale’s and also includes Talbot’s Eileen Fisher, Cole Haan and Anthropolgie — said both centers in Chevy Chase, Md., closed at 2 p.m. Friday and would remain closed through Saturday, “unless there was some dramatic change [improvement] in the weather.”
Crerand said he had talked to all of the department stores and would make a determination on Saturday about whether to reopen Sunday.
“The closest storm of this size was in 2010 [which was aptly dubbed ‘Snowmageddon’] and this sounds like it could be even bigger,” Crerand said.
Mazza Gallerie and The Shops at Wisconsin Place are both near a major Metro station and with the closure of the Metro this weekend, Crerand said there will be an additional impact.
A spokesman for Simon Property Group said 11 of its properties in the Mid-Atlantic region had closed by 3 p.m. on Friday, spanning from Opry Mills, a super regional shopping mall in Nashville, to Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield, N.C. to Lebanon Premium Outlets in Lebanon, Tenn., and The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., and Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester, Va.
Morris said Simon Property has over 200 properties in the U.S., but could not estimate how many might be affected by the storm. Simon had not determined when those properties would be reopened or whether more properties would continue to close as the storm crept up the East Coast.
“It looks like New England will be outside of the wall of the storm and that is a big area for us,” Morris said. “We certainly have quite a few in the Mid-Atlantic, in New York, New Jersey and into the Carolinas.”
Kevin Berry, vice president of investor relations at General Growth Partners, said the company owns 24 malls in the Mid-Atlantic region, stretching from Connecticut to South Carolina.
GGP was set to close 11 malls by 3 p.m. Friday, from the Greenwood Mall in Bowling Green, Ky., to the Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro, N.C., to Tysons Galleria in McLean, Va., Towson Town Center in Towson, Md., and The Gallery in Baltimore.
Macerich, which owns 50 properties in the U.S., said it had closed three by Friday afternoon, including Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. and another in Harrisonburg, Va., and one in Elizabethtown, Ky.
“These are the only ones so far,” said Karen Maurer, assistant vice president of corporate communications at Macerich. “Obviously, we will watch out for any immediate threats to the community. Since it is a storm, we take it hour by hour.”
She said Macerich owns several properties in the New York area, but it was too early to tell whether they would be affected by the storm.