Thousands of flights canceled as east coast shuts down to snow storm

Kenneth Wolfe, of Pine Grove, walks Friday along Clubhouse Road at Sweet Arrow Lake County Park in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. (Jacqueline Dormer, Republican-Herald via AP)

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BOSTON — Last-minute shoppers cleared supermarket shelves and raided east coast snowblower dealers Friday in anticipation of a storm expected to drop heavy, fast-falling snow in some of the nation’s largest metro areas, including Philadelphia, New York. and Boston.

Officials from Virginia to Massachusetts rushed to announce snow emergencies, impose parking bans and restrict travel in anticipation of a system expected to drop sleet at speeds of up to 5 inches per hour. The storm threatened blizzards and coastal flooding in some areas.

Merrick McCormack was one of hundreds who packed up a Shaw’s Supermarket in Warwick, Rhode Island, as the entire state was warned of a blizzard and officials mobilized more than 500 snowplows.

“I don’t interfere with storms. I know we’ll be clear and clear in a few days. Don’t panic,” said the 51-year-old Cranston resident, lighting up a little stoic from New England. his messages are unloaded.

Regional supermarket giant Stop & Shop begged customers to exercise restraint, warning that staffing and delivery difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic will lead to tighter shelves and longer checkout lines.

“We ask customers to buy what they need and keep some for their neighbors,” the supermarket chain said in a statement.

A barred owl with a broken beak flies off a branch along Line Road in Greene, Maine, on Friday.
A barred owl with a broken beak flies off a branch along Line Road in Greene, Maine, on Friday. (Photo: Russ Dillingham, Sun Journal via AP)

By Friday afternoon, airlines had canceled more than 1,000 flights in the US and had already canceled about 2,500 for Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware. The worst affected airports were Chicago, New York City and Boston.

Amtrak has canceled or limited train service on weekends along the busy Washington to Boston corridor.

The storm is expected to begin Friday evening in parts of the Carolinas and Appalachia, according to the National Weather Service.

The system was expected to intensify as a northeasterly and bring snow to New England on Saturday, where forecasters warned of up to 20 inches and wind gusts of up to 60 mph. In some isolated spots, nearly 3 feet of snow could lie.

Officials warned of near-whiteout conditions.

The usual refrain from New York government Kathy Hochul and other heads of state: “Just stay off the road.”

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan mobilized the state’s National Guard, with parts of the state’s eastern shore expecting up to 12 inches of snow. Washington could see 1 to 3 inches of snow.

In Virginia, where a snowstorm this month stranded hundreds of motorists on Interstate 95 for hours, Governor Glenn Youngkin said officials had already begun placing resources in anticipation of fallen trees and power outages and possible flooding.

The same weather was expected as far as the Philadelphia and New York City regions. Marine communities from the Jersey Shore to the suburbs of Long Island and southeastern Connecticut may experience higher snowfall rates and stronger winds than major cities.

About 1,800 snowplows were ready for deployment in New York City, and workers were already spreading salt across hundreds of miles of streets before the storm, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said.

Some New England officials were concerned about a shortage of snowplow drivers.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said Friday that his workforce has fallen by about 30% this weekend due to COVID-19 and other issues.

A front loader dumps road salt into a truck in Chelsea, Massachusetts on Friday.  Residents and officials in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the US are bracing for a powerful winter storm expected to trigger snowstorms Friday and Saturday.
A front loader dumps road salt into a truck in Chelsea, Massachusetts on Friday. Residents and officials in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the US are bracing for a powerful winter storm expected to trigger snowstorms Friday and Saturday. (Photo: Michael Dwyer, Associated Press)

The state expects to have more than 600 plow and barn trucks, along with additional contractors, but with projected snowfall rates of 5 inches per hour, that may not be enough, he said.

“It depends on the length of the storm,” Giulietti said. “Because these people have to keep circling and back on the routes.”

In the northeast, the clearing storm for bread, eggs, milk and other staples was well underway in supermarkets on Friday.

At Cambridge’s Star Market, Marc Rudkowski was one of those who nearly got dizzy at the prospect of a snowbound weekend. The 28-year-old machine learning engineer stockpiled French bread and wine, as well as balloons and toys for his puppy, who turned 1 Friday.

“He’ll love it. He’s a snow dog,” Rudkowski said.

In Maine, where a blizzard warning had been issued, Rick Tucker stayed busy Friday while customers bought generators, snow blowers, shovels, melt ice, lanterns and other supplies at Maine Hardware in Portland.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a big one,” the store president said. “We haven’t had that in a while. It’s going to be fun.”

Contributing: Deepti Hajela, Brian Witte, Ben Finley, Wayne Parry, Pat Eaton-Robb, Steve LeBlanc, William J. Kole, David Klepper, David Sharp and David Koenig

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