* Two feet of snow to blanket most of Boston area
* Five governors declare state of emergency
* More than 3,500 flights canceled for Friday
* Areas recovering from Sandy face fresh flood risk
By Scott Malone and Edith Honan
BOSTON/NEW YORK, Feb 8 A blizzard slammed into
the northeastern United States on Friday, snarling traffic,
disrupting thousands of flights and prompting five governors to
declare states of emergency in the face of a fearsome snowstorm.
The storm caused a massive traffic pile-up in southern
Maine. Organizers of the U.S. sledding championship in that
state postponed a race scheduled for Saturday, fearing too much
snow for the competition.
The blizzard left about 10,000 along the East Coast without
power. Almost 3,500 flights were canceled and officials in
Massachusetts and Connecticut closed roads.
Forecasters warned about 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow
would blanket most of the Boston area with some spots getting as
much as 30 inches (76 centimeters). The city's record snowfall,
27.6 inches (70.1 cm), came in 2003.
"We're seeing heavier snow overspread the region from south
to north," said Lance Franck, a meteorologist with the National
Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts, outside Boston. "As
the snow picks up in intensity, we're expecting it to fall at a
rate of upwards of two to three inches per hour."
Early Friday evening, officials warned that the storm was
just ramping up to full strength, and that heavy snow and high
winds would continue through midday on Saturday. The governors
of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine
declared states of emergency and issued bans on driving by early
Authorities 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.
People appeared to take the warnings seriously. Traffic on
streets and public transportation services was significantly
lighter than usual on Friday.
"This is a very large and powerful storm, however we are
encouraged by the numbers of people who stayed home today,"
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters.
Even so, the storm caused a few accidents, including a
19-vehicle pile-up outside Portland, Maine, that sent one person
to the hospital.
Winds were blowing at 35 to 40 miles per hour by Friday
afternoon and forecasters expected gusts up to 60 miles per hour
as the evening wore on.
As he waited for one of the last subways that ran through
the Boston area, musician John Hinson, who was visiting from
Durham, North Carolina, said he had never seen a storm of the
magnitude Friday's blizzard was expected to reach.
"I've been through some snow, a couple feet, but not
anything like they're predicting, which is kind of exciting," he
LOOKING FOR SASQUATCH
The storm wasn't bad news for everyone.
When told an estimated 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters)
were predicted overnight at Elk Mountain in Uniondale,
Pennsylvania, pint-sized skier Sophia Chesner's eye grew wide.
"Whoa!" said the 8-year old, of Moorestown, New Jersey, who
was on a ski vacation with her family. Her sister, Giuliana, 4,
said no matter how good the skiing is, she has other outer
priorities once the snow piles up.
"First thing I'm going to do is build a snowman and look for
a Sasquatch footprint," Guiliana Chesner said.
Life was not as rosy for those who planned to fly. Almost
3,500 flights were canceled on Friday, with more than 1,200
planned cancellations for Saturday, according to the website
The storm also posed a risk of flooding at high tide to
areas still recovering from superstorm Sandy last fall.
"Many of the same communities that were inundated by
Hurricane Sandy's tidal surge just about 100 days ago are likely
to see some moderate coastal flooding this evening," said New
York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
About one foot (30 centimeters) of snow was forecast to land
on New York City.
Brick Township in New Jersey had crews out building up sand
dunes and berms ahead of a forecast storm surge, said
Mayor Stephen Acropolis.
Travel became more difficult as the day progressed.
Massachusetts started closing its public transportation system
at 3:30 p.m. ( 2030 GMT) a nd ordered most drivers off roads by 4
p.m. (2 100 GMT) Co nnecticut also closed its roads.
The Amtrak railroad suspended service between New York,
Boston and points north on Friday afternoon.
Organizers of the country's championship sledding race,
which had been scheduled to get underway in Camden, Maine, on
Saturday, postponed the event by one day. Some 400 teams were
registered for the race, which features costumed sledders on a
400-foot (12 1 meter) chu te.
"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."