* Two feet of snow expected in Boston, driving ban
* About 5,000 flights canceled
* More than 300,000 power outages across New England
* Fresh flood risk to areas recovering from Sandy
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.
Forecasters warned that about 2 feet (60 cm) of snow would
blanket most of the Boston area with some spots getting as much
as 30 inches (76 cm). New York was due to get about a foot (30
cm) in some areas, while heavy snowfall was also expected in
Connecticut and Maine.
Winds were blowing at 35 to 40 miles per hour (56 to 64 km
per hour) by Friday afternoon and forecasters expected gusts up
to 60 mph (97 kph) as the evening wore on.
Driving conditions were treacherous. Massachusetts Governor
Deval Patrick took the rare step of announcing a ban on most car
travel starting Friday afternoon, while Connecticut Governor
Dannel Malloy closed the state's highways to all but emergency
Hundreds of thousands of people lost power, with more than
200,000 reported outages in Massachusetts, more than 100,000 in
Rhode Island, and 30,000 in Connecticut, according to local
Mass transit was also affected.
In New York City, transit officials said "suspensions in
service remained a strong possibility," and Metro-North Railroad
suspended some of its commuter rail service at 10 p.m.
The Long Island Rail Road partially suspended service on its
Some 3,500 flights were canceled on Friday and more than
1,200 flights scheduled for Saturday were scratched, according
to the website FlightAware.com.
"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 urged people to stay indoors.
In many cases, authorities ordered non-essential 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 ridership on public transportation 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.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested the
storm created an opportunity to relax and catch up on sleep.
Even so, the storm caused a few accidents, including a
19-vehicle pile-up outside Portland, Maine, that sent one person
to the hospital.
LOOKING FOR SASQUATCH
The storm wasn't bad news for everyone.
When told an estimated 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) of snow
was predicted overnight at Elk Mountain in Uniondale,
Pennsylvania, pint-sized skier Sophia Chesner's eyes grew wide.
"Whoa!" said the 8-year-old from Moorestown, New Jersey,
who was on a ski vacation with her family. Her sister, Giuliana,
4, said no matter how good the skiing was, she had other
priorities once the snow piled up.
"First thing I'm going to do is build a snowman and look for
a Sasquatch footprint," Guiliana Chesner said.
The storm posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas
still recovering from Superstorm Sandy last October.
"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
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.
Amtrak suspended railroad 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 (121-meter) chute.
"As soon as the weather clears on Saturday and it is safe,
the toboggan committee will be out at Tobogganville cleaning up
the chute as quickly as they can," said Holly Edwards,
chairwoman of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.
"It needs to be shoveled out by hand."