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February 08, 2013
Forecasters say a massive blizzard poised to dump up to 3 feet of snow on the Northeast may be one for the record books and is following the same path as Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of the region less than six months ago.
It began snowing Friday morning in some areas, with the heaviest amounts expected to fall at night and into Saturday. Wind gusts are expected to reach up to 75 mph.
Widespread power failures were feared, along with high tides and flooding in much of the coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.
Before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 3,700 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions from the blizzard certain to ripple across the U.S.
New York City’s main three airports, most domestic carriers planned to cease operations between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, resuming after noon on Saturday afternoon.
At Boston’s Logan and other New England airports, most airlines were to cease operations between noon and 4 p.m. and would restart Saturday.
“This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,” said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. “Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.”
Boston could see up to 3 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 12 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 2 to 5 inches.
“We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell,” Bloomberg said, adding that at least the bad weather is arriving on a weekend, when the traffic is lighter and snowplows can clean up the streets more easily.
Amtrak said its Northeast trains will stop running Friday afternoon. The organizers of New York’s Fashion Week — a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent — said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.
Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York’s Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Conn., and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy is declaring a state of emergency and asking all residents to limit travel. Roads in the state will be subject to closure beginning at noon.
“People need to take this storm seriously. If current predictions are accurate, we will need people to stay off the roads so that emergency personnel and utility crews can get to the places they need to get to, and to make sure that our plows can keep critical roadways clear,” Governor Malloy said.
“Please stay home once the weather gets bad except in the case of real emergency.”
In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston’s record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003, forecasters said. The last major snowfall in southern New England was well over a year ago — the Halloween storm of 2011.
Dunham said southern New England has seen less than half its normal snowfall this season, but “we’re going to catch up in a heck of a hurry.” He added: “Everybody’s going to get plastered with snow.”
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ordered non-emergency state workers to stay home Friday and urged private employers to do the same.
In the Whitman, a southeast Mass. town where up to 30 inches of snow is forecast, public work crews were cleaning crosswalk signs, trash barrels and anything else that might impede plows later.
“We’ve had instances where they have predicted something big and it’s petered out,” Dennis Smith, a DPW worker said.
“I don’t think this is going to be one of those times.”
Smith’s partner Bob Trumbull sounded a note of optimism, saying the relative lack of snow earlier this winter would make this storm easier to clean up.
“At least there is room for this snow. There are no snow banks so we will have a place to put it,” Trumbull said.
Diane Lopes was among the shoppers who packed a supermarket Thursday in the coastal fishing city of Gloucester, Mass. She said she went to a different grocery earlier in the day but it was too crowded. Lopes said she has strep throat and normally wouldn’t leave the house but had to stock up on basic foods — “and lots of wine.”
She chuckled at the excitement the storm was creating in a place where snow is routine.
“Why are us New Englanders so crazy, right?” she said.
At a Shaw’s supermarket in Belmont, Mass., Susan Lichtenstein stocked up, with memories of a 1978 blizzard on her mind. “This is panic shopping, so bread, milk, a snow shovel in case our snow shovel breaks,” she said.
In New Hampshire, Dartmouth College student Evan Diamond and other members of the ski team were getting ready for races at the Ivy League school’s winter carnival.
“We’re pretty excited about it because this has been an unusual winter for us,” he said. “We’ve been going back and forth between having really solid cold snaps and then the rain washing everything away.”
But he said the snow might be too much of a good thing this weekend: “For skiing, we like to have a nice hard surface, so it will be kind of tough to get the hill ready.”
Terrance Rodriguez, a doorman at a luxury apartment complex in Boston, took the forecast in stride.
“It’s just another day in Boston. It’s to be expected. We’re in a town where it’s going to snow,” he said. “It’s like doomsday prep. It doesn’t need to be. People just take it to the extreme.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.