Snow began to fall as a massive blizzard has approached the US Northeast, sending residents hurrying to stock up on food and supplies ahead of a storm poised to dump up to 3 feet (nearly a metre) of snow from New York City to Boston and beyond. Roughly 25 million people live in the region.

Airlines cancelled more than 4,300 flights through today.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick banned all traffic from roads after 4 pm local time, believed to be the state’s first such ban since the blizzard of 1978.

“This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,” said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

“Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.”

The heaviest snowfall was expected yesterday night and into today. Wind gusts could reach 75 mph (121 kph).

Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.

Boston could get nearly a metre of snow, while New York City was expecting up to 12 inches (30 centimetres). Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby.

Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine yesterday morning. In Brick Township, New Jersey, which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas that are still recovering from that storm.

Amtrak rail stopped its Northeast trains yesterday afternoon. The organisers of New York’s Fashion Week a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.

Airlines have cancelled more than 4,300 flights yesterday and today in preparation for the Northeast storm, according to airline tracking website FlightAware. New York City’s three main airports and Boston’s Logan started shutting down in the afternoon.

Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York’s Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.

In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston’s record of 27.6 inches (701.04 millimetres), set in 2003, the National Weather Service said. The last major snowfall in southern New England was well over a year ago the Halloween storm of 2011.

(This article was published on February 9, 2013)
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