A powerful winter storm was forecast to hit the US regions of New England and the Mid-Atlantic with up to two feet of snow this weekend, causing coastal flooding, power outages and significant travel problems.
Airlines have canceled more than 5,000 flights scheduled to depart between Friday and Sunday, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. In total, more than 8,500 flights were delayed.
The storm developed as a low-pressure system off the southeast coast and was expected to increase in intensity as it advances along the east coast, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
The NWS issued a snowstorm warning Friday for the Boston metropolitan area and its nearly 4.9 million residents.
“Expect white-out conditions and sometimes near-impossible travel. The strong to damaging winds will lead to scattered power outages. Significant coastal impacts are also possible, including coastal flooding and beach erosion,” the weather service said in an advisory.
Forecasters said up to 60 centimeters of snow could fall in the region and gusts of 112 km/h could be expected from early Saturday. Southeast Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the island of Martha’s Vineyard, are expected to receive the highest snow totals.
“We are declaring a snow emergency starting tonight,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a tweet. “Residents are encouraged to stay at home.”
Winter storm advisories and warnings were also in effect from the Carolinas as far as Maine, where snow was expected to fall Friday afternoon and expected to continue Saturday. Wind gusts can reach 80 km/h.
“It will make travel pretty much impossible,” said Patrick O’Hara, an NWS meteorologist in New Jersey. “It’s the first very big storm of the year.”
The storm was approaching nearly 44 years to the day when a monstrous blizzard crippled New England. The storm of 1978 struck with little warning, throwing more than 68 inches of snow on Boston, killing dozens of people, locking others in their homes and closing major highways for a week.
New York City, the nation’s largest metropolis, can see 9 inches of snow, weather forecasters said.
“As we head into the weekend, follow local forecasts closely, stay off the road and avoid unnecessary travel,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Twitter.
Photos posted to social media show shoppers pouring into supermarkets, picking the shelves clean as they stock up on supplies before the storm.
“I just spent over $100 on groceries prior to this alleged ‘storm.’ Snow Maiden, if you’re going to do it, do it big,” Twitter user ChelsLynne17 wrote on the social media platform.
The weather service warned that blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility and strong winds could cause branches to fall and cut power off in parts of the region.
Libraries, churches, clinics and several stores in the region said they would close on Saturday.
“We’ll be closed tomorrow, Saturday the 29th, due to the snow storm. Call us wimps, if you dare…” RiverRun Bookstore, a retailer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said in a tweet.