* Storm's effects will be felt from Midwest to Northeast
* Up to two feet of snow forecast
* Boston Mayor urges residents to "stay off the streets"
* More than 1,200 flights canceled for Friday
(Updates with details, quotes throughout)
By Scott Malone
BOSTON, Feb 7 New England braced on Thursday for
a possibly record-setting winter storm, with forecasts of up to
two feet (60 cm) of snow prompting local officials to urge
residents to prepare.
The storm was blowing in from the Midwest where it was
expected to begin dropping snow on the Chicago area on Thursday
afternoon. It was due to bring light snow to the northeastern
United States on Friday morning before ramping up to blizzard
conditions by afternoon.
In Boston, which was expected to see some of the heaviest
snowfall, Mayor Thomas Menino ordered the city's schools to
close on Friday and urged businesses to consider allowing staff
to stay home, to reduce the risk of commuters getting stranded
on their way home.
"We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to
these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use
common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically,
stay home," Menino told reporters. "Stay put after noontime
City officials up and down the northeastern United States
were bracing for the storm, readying fleets of plows and salt
trucks to keep streets clear, while airport officials advised
travelers to try to reschedule flights ahead of the storm.
The National Weather Service said Boston could get 18 to 24
inches of snow (45-60 cm) on Friday and Saturday, its first
heavy snowfall in two years. Light snow is expected to begin
falling around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Friday, with heavier
snow and winds gusting as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour
(95-120 km per hour) as the day progresses.
"It's the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening
and overnight when the height of the storm will be," said Kim
Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in
Cities from Hartford, Connecticut to Portland, Maine,
expected to see at least a foot of snow.
Shelves at many stores were picked clean of food and
storm-related supplies such as shovels and snowblowers as areas
residents scrambled to prepare.
Jackie Hooper, a florist from Brighton, Massachusetts, said
she had a hard time finding salt to melt ice from the sidewalk
outside her home.
Hooper said she had been hired to provide flowers for a
wedding on Saturday, but that the storm may derail those plans.
"We've stocked up on flowers, but we don't know what's going
to happen with the reception - they may cancel it, they may
not," she said. "How sad is that?"
By Thursday afternoon the storm had begun to make its way
through the Midwest, with the first traces of snow falling in
In New York, forecasts called for 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm)
of snow. Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters he hoped that he
hoped the forecasters were "exaggerating," but noted that the
city would nonetheless have snow removal crews ready to act.
Airlines have already canceled more than 1,200 flights
planned for Friday, according to the Web site FlightAware.com,
with the largest number of cancellations at Newark Liberty
International Airport, Chicago O'Hare and Boston Logan.
Officials at airports across the region warned travelers to
expect more delays and cancellations on Friday.
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency
Management Agency, said power outages were a top worry.
"It being winter, folks losing their power means they're
also losing their heat, and if you lose heat during the middle
of the storm, you're not going to be able to go out to get to a
shelter," he said.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering and Tim McLaughlin;
Editing by Paul Thomasch, Leslie Gevirtz and Bob Burgdorfer)