* Up to 3 feet of snow forecast; storm could set records
* Officials urge residents to stay off roads
* More than 3,000 flights canceled for Friday
* Long gasoline lines form in New York City
By Scott Malone and Shannon Stapleton
BOSTON/NEW YORK, Feb 8 The northeastern United
States braced for a possibly historic blizzard that could drop
up to three feet (nearly one meter) of snow from Friday to
Saturday and bring travel to a halt.
Blizzard warnings were in effect from New Jersey through
southern Maine, with Boston expected to bear the brunt of the
storm. The day began with light snow and winds that were due to
pick up with much heavier snowfall by afternoon.
Officials urged residents to stay home, rather than risk
getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions.
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.
"You always get long lines ahead of a storm, but as the
wounds from Hurricane Sandy are still so fresh, it's not
surprising that people are rushing to fill up," said
Michael Watt, executive director of the Long Island Gasoline
Retailers Association. "It's understandable. Even people like me
who would normally think it was foolish to panic buy will be
thinking about it."
Boston and surrounding communities said schools would be
closed on Friday, and city and state officials told nonessential
city workers to stay home.
Officials across the region ordered nonessential government
workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same,
and told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them
to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
In New Jersey, also hit hard by Sandy, state officials
expected major coastal flooding, high winds, and possible
blizzard conditions in the northeastern section of the state.
"This is a dangerous storm, and we ask motorists to be
careful while driving," said Colonel Rick Fuentes, director of
the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. "(The) evening
commute will be treacherous throughout much of New Jersey."
The National Weather Service, warning of a "major, maybe
even historic, snowstorm," said Boston and much of New England
could get up to three feet of snow (90 cm) on Friday and
Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Winds could
gust as high as 60 miles to 70 miles per hour (95 to 112 km per
If more than 18.2 inches (46.2 cm) of snow falls in Boston,
it will rank among the city's 10 largest snowfalls. Boston's
record snowfall, 27.6 inches (70.1 cm), came in 2003.
Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, were
expected to see at least one foot of snow.
Airlines have canceled more than 3,000 flights for Friday,
according to website FlightAware.com, with the largest number of
cancellations at airports in Newark, New Jersey; New York City;
Chicago and Boston.
Another 881 flights were canceled for Saturday, according to
the flight-tracking site.
Boston's Logan International Airport warned that once the
storm roars in, all flights would likely be grounded for 24
United Continental Holdings Inc, JetBlue Airways
Corp and Delta Air Lines Inc all reported
ECHOES OF '78
For some in the Boston area, the forecast brought to mind
memories of the blizzard of 1978, which dropped 27.1 inches
(68.8 cm), the second largest snowfall recorded in the city's
history. That storm started out gently and intensified during
the day, leaving many motorists stranded during the evening
Dozens of deaths were reported in the region after that
storm, many from people touching downed electric lines.
Officials warned of a high risk of extensive power outages
across the region due to the combination of heavy snow and high
winds. Residents were also at risk of losing heat at a time when
temperatures would dip to 20 Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius).
Across the region, store shelves were picked clean of food
and storm-related supplies such as shovels and salt as residents
scrambled to prepare.
Some big employers said they were considering pleas by
officials to let workers stay home, including State Street Corp
, one of Boston's largest employers in the financial