A pedestrian walks into wind-driven snow in Boston,
Massachusetts at the beginning of what is expected to be a
major snowstorm. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A blizzard has blown into the northeastern United States,
cutting short the workweek for millions who feared being
stranded as state officials ordered roads closed ahead of what
forecasters said could be record-setting snowfall.
Authorities scrambled to prepare for the storm, which had
already resulted in a massive traffic pile-up in southern
Maine and prompted organizers of the nation's sledding
championship in Maine to postpone a race scheduled for
Saturday, fearing too much snow for the competition.
From New York to Maine, the storm began gently, dropping a
light dusting of snow, but officials urged residents to stay
home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts when the
storm kicks up later Friday afternoon.
Even in its early stages, the storm created some panic.
Drivers lined up at gas stations to top off their tanks,
grocery stores were swamped as shoppers stocked up on bread
and milk, and travelers were forced to confront flight delays
With the worst of the storm yet to come, the governors of
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut declared states
of emergency and issued bans on driving by early Friday
"The rate of snowfall and reduced visibility during the
evening rush hour in particular will make safe travel nearly
impossible," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told
The early edge of the storm led to a 19-vehicle pile-up in
southern Maine, snarling traffic on a major interstate
highway north of Portland. No major injuries were reported. A
smaller accident briefly closed an interstate near Bolton,
"It was close to whiteout conditions, it's sort of a
precursor of what's coming later," said Stephen McCausland, a
spokesman for the Maine State Police.
Officials across the region closed schools and more than
3,000 flights were canceled. Several thousand customers lost
power in New Jersey and points south, though officials warned
the number was likely to rise as the snowfall got heavier and
winds picked up.
Governors and mayors ordered nonessential government workers
to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, told
people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to
check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
The light snow falling across much of New England on Friday
morning was a taste of the weather to come, said Jerry Paul,
senior meteorologist with Weather Insight, a unit of Thomson
"That's going to be gradually building today as time goes
on," Paul said.
A wide swath of New England, including northeastern
Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and the Boston area,
will likely see 24 inches to 30 inches (60 centimeters to 76
centimeters) of snow, with some areas seeing more than three
feet (one meter) by the time the storm ends on Saturday
morning, Paul added.
At the storm's peak, winds could gust up to 65 miles per hour
(105 kilometers per hour), he said.
Boston's record snowfall, 27.6 inches (70.1 cm), came in
CHEERING ON STORM
Organizers of the country's championship sledding race, that
had been scheduled to get underway in Camden, Maine, on
Saturday, postponed the event by one day.
"As soon as the weather clears on Saturday and it is safe,
the toboggan committee will be out at Tobagganville cleaning
up the chute as quickly as they can," said Holly Edwards,
chairman of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. "It
needs to be shoveled out by hand."
Some 400 teams were registered for the race, which features
costumed sledders on a 400-foot (121 meter) chute.
After two years of very little snow across the region, people
whose livelihoods depend on skiers and snowmobilers cheered
on the storm.
"It affects restaurants, lodgings, everything if those people
aren't up here to play," said Scott Senecal, manager of the
VIP Discount Auto Center in Littleton, New Hampshire, in the
White Mountains. "All those people that come up here they're
going to have flat tires, batteries that die ... Cold weather
causes people to have to spend money whether they wanted to
In New York City, still not fully recovered from the effects
of October's devastating Hurricane Sandy, officials said they
had 1,800 Sanitation Department trucks equipped with snow
plows ready to be deployed.
Motorists, mindful of the severe fuel disruptions after
Sandy, rushed to buy gasoline, leading to shortages in New
York City. A Reuters photographer reported at least three
service stations had run out of gas in the borough of Queens
on Friday morning, with long lines formed at others.
Sandy knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes,
taking gasoline stations out of service, and damaged port
facilities, exacerbating the shortages by preventing operable
stations from refueling.
"We've seen some lines at stations in the southern part of
the state, ahead of the storm, which may actually help
prevent problems after the storm," said Ralph Bombardiere,
executive director of the New York State Association of
Service Stations and Repair Shops. "I'm not expecting
anything like the vast power outages and problems we had with
Travel will become more difficult through the day, with
Massachusetts planning to close its public transportation
system at 3:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) and ordering most drivers off
roads by 4 p.m. (2100 GMT). Connecticut started closing roads
at noon (1700 GMT).
The Amtrak railroad service warned it would suspend service
between New York, Boston and points north on Friday
Life was not any easier for those who planned to fly. More
than 3,000 flights were canceled on Friday, with close to
1,000 planned cancellations for Saturday, according to the
website FlightAware.com. The hardest-hit airports were in the
New York City area, Boston and Toronto.
Major Boston financial companies, including State Street Corp
and Fidelity Investments, said many employees worked from
home on Friday rather than risk traveling.