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Winter storm churns up East Coast with deep snow, high winds

A dusting of snow falls at dawn as the beginning of a major snowstorm arrives Saturday in Somerville, Mass. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
A dusting of snow falls at dawn as the beginning of a major snowstorm arrives Saturday in Somerville, Mass. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

People from New York City to Maine awakened Saturday to half a foot of snow, and forecasters warned that could more than quadruple as a powerful nor'easter kicked up blinding blizzard conditions with high winds and the potential for widespread power outages and coastal flooding.

Parts of 10 states and some major population centers — including Boston, Philadelphia and New York — were in the path of the storm, which was expected to rage throughout the day.

Airlines canceled more than 4,500 flights at some of the nation's busiest airports, according to FlightAware. Amtrak suspended or limited service on the Boston-to-Washington corridor.

Officials from Virginia to Maine warned people to stay off the roads amid potential whiteout conditions. The storm's saving grace: It was hitting on a weekend, with schools closed and few commuters.

In West Hartford, Connecticut, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on snow-slicked Interstate 84, closing several westbound lanes.

Massachusetts, where forecasters said some isolated pockets could get as much as 30 inches of snow, banned heavy trucks from interstate highways for most of Saturday.

An MBTA bus makes its rounds at the beginning of a major snowstorm arrives Saturday. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
An MBTA bus makes its rounds at the beginning of a major snowstorm arrives Saturday. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Rhode Island, all of which was under a blizzard warning, banned all nonemergency road travel starting at 8 a.m.

"This is serious. We're ready for this storm, and we also need Rhode Islanders to be ready," Gov. Dan McKee said. "The best way to handle this storm is to stay home tomorrow."

Delaware allowed only essential personnel to drive in two of its three counties.

Shoppers crammed stores Friday to stock up on food, generators and snowblowers ahead of the nor'easter, a type of storm so named because its winds typically blow from the northeast as it churns up the East Coast.

Many hardy New Englanders took the storm in stride.

Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon, jokingly invited the public to his suburban Boston home on Saturday for a free snow shoveling clinic.

"I will provide the driveway and multiple walkways to ensure your training is conducted in the most lifelike situation," he said.

Marc Rudkowski, 28, bought French bread and wine Friday at the Star Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with balloons and toys for his dog, who turned 1 on Friday.

"He's going to love it," Rudkowski said. "He's a snow dog."

But there were some concerns about hoarding amid ongoing supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. New England supermarket giant Stop & Shop pleaded with customers to practice restraint.

"We ask shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbors," the chain said in a statement.

People enter the Maverick T station during Saturday's snowstorm. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
People enter the Maverick T station during Saturday's snowstorm. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Areas closest to the coast were expected to bear the brunt of the storm, which could bring wind gusts as high as 70 mph in New England.

Coastal New Jersey was forecast to get as much as 18 inches of snow and eastern Long Island up to 17 inches. Philadelphia, New York City, and parts of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could get 10 inches or more.

Virginia, where a blizzard this month stranded hundreds of motorists for hours on Interstate 95, did not hesitate to get resources at the ready. In Maryland, the governor mobilized the National Guard.

Washington and Baltimore were spared the worst of the storm.

Snow could fall as fast as 5 inches per hour in spots, including Connecticut, where officials worried about having enough snowplow drivers amid shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.

The worst of the storm was expected to blow by Sunday morning into Canada, where several provinces were under warnings.

One saving grace, at least in parts of Massachusetts: The snow should fall light and flaky because it is coming with cold weather that dries it out, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for the commercial firm Atmospheric Environmental Research.

That means lousy snowballs — and snow that's less capable of snapping tree branches and tearing down power lines.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Steve LeBlanc in Cambridge, Massachusetts; William J. Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island; David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island; and Sarah Brumfield in Washington.

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