'This is it': Mammoth winter storm lashes Northeast
As traffic snarled and officials issued warnings for residents to stay home, the coastal areas prepared for a major storm surge. NBC's Ron Mott reports.
Updated at 9 p.m. ET: A powerful winter storm swept into New England Friday, with gusting winds and heavy snow causing power failures for hundreds of thousands of people, dozens of accidents and fuel shortages at gas stations.
By 9 p.m. ET, 13 inches of snow had fallen on East Setauket on New York's Long Island and 12 inches at Woonsocket, R.I., weather.com reported. In Massachusetts, gusts over 50 mph were reported in Boston and over 60 mph on Nantucket Island. Winds up to 75 mph were possible in Provincetown, forecasters said.
The winter storm gathered strength as two weather systems — a so-called clipper pattern sweeping across the Midwest and a band of rain from the South — converged over the Northeast early Friday. By late Friday, the storm had arrived in earnest and was expected to pummel New England through Saturday and last as long as Sunday farther north.
Governors of New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island declared a state of emergency.
More than 800 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York to provide roadway support, emergency transportation and back-up for first responders, the Department of Defense said Friday evening, while governors in the region warned people to get home and be prepared to be socked in without power.
Airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights on Friday, Boston closed its subway, Amtrak suspended some service, and cities across the Northeast prepared to deploy an armada of snowplows and salt-spreading trucks.
Hundreds of thousands were without power, including 190,000 customers in Massachusetts, 120,000 in Rhode Island and 34,000 in Connecticut, and more power failures were expected overnight.
For people in the blizzard’s path, forecasters and authorities had a clear message: Stay home.
Governors in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts announced restrictions on driving.
In the most sweeping ban, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ordered all non-essential vehicles off the roads by 4 p.m. and said people should brace to be snowed in for two days. He said the storm was "profoundly different" from others the state has endured in recent years.
Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut banned car traffic on limited-access highways starting at 4 p.m. State police reported nearly 100 minor accidents across the state by Friday afternoon.
"If you don't currently have a reason to be on the road, if you're not an emergency personnel that's required to report to work somewhere, stay home," Malloy said at a state armory news conference. "This is it. Things are starting to accumulate."
A 19-car pileup on Interstate 295 in Falmouth, Maine, was blamed on the storm. Police said there were minor injuries.
Forecasters said they expected Massachusetts to get the most snowfall, with an accumulation of up to 3 feet in some spots. The worst snowfall on record in Boston was a 27.5-inch blast a decade ago.
The Weather Channel said snow was falling at 2-3 inches in coastal Massachusetts on Friday evening. It forecast as much as 2 feet of snow in Hartford, Conn., and as much as 15 inches in New York.
Coastal residents were warned that the winds could top 70 mph. Those living on north- and east-facing shorelines from Boston south to Cape Cod Bay were told to prepare for tides 2 to 4 feet above normal.
Flooding and beach erosion were dangers, particularly from Boston northward.
Sandy survivors: It's like a repeat 'nightmare'
"I'm really nervous," Kathy Niznansky, a 65-year-old teacher in coastal Fairfield, Conn. told The Associated Press. Nizmansky is still recovering from flooding from Superstorm Sandy which arrived on her birthday and knocked her out of her house near the beach for two months. "Now I'm really worried about this tide tonight. I just don't want any more flooding."
Elsewhere, Rhode Island police asked people for loaner snowmobiles, and out-of-state utility crews headed for Connecticut to help.
LaGuardia was virtually empty Friday evening as 4,700 flights were canceled nationwide. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.
Airline cancellations piled up all morning. Almost 3,000 flights were scrapped for Friday and more than 1,000 more for Saturday, according to FlightAware.com. At the major airports in New York and New England, most major airlines said they would shut down completely Friday afternoon.
Schools were closed in Boston and for most of New England on Friday. Patrick ordered non-essential state workers to stay home Friday and encouraged private employers to do the same. In New York, the transit agency added more than 20 afternoon trains on its Metro-North commuter line from Grand Central Terminal to get people out of the city before the worst hit.
The Metro-North would suspend service at 10 p.m. ET, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. And the Long Island Rail Road shut down service east of Speonk about 9 p.m.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned people to stay in and to use public transportation if they had to go out, although even that carried the possibility of disruptions. The city had 250,000 tons of salt at the ready for the roads.
He encouraged New Yorkers to stay in and cook a meal or read a good book.
"This is a very serious storm, and we should treat it that way," said Tom Prendergast, president of the agency that runs New York subways and buses.
The weather service warned that the combination of heavy snow and high winds would limit visibility and cause whiteout conditions at times.
"Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented," the weather service said in an advisory issued for the Boston area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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