Storm hits NYC, Boston; 1 to 3 feet of snow expected

BOSTON (AP) — A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books began clobbering the New York-to-Boston

corridor on Friday, grounding flights, closing workplaces and sending people rushing to get home ahead of a possible 1 to

3 feet of snow.

From New Jersey to Maine, shoppers crowded

into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels,

flashlights and

generators, something that became a precious commodity after

Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another

lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New

England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.

"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino warned. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

By Friday evening, Boston had just 2.5 inches of snow and New York City had just 2, but parts of southeastern Massachusetts

had more than 6 inches and central Rhode Island had more than 8.

The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time

for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have

to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

Rainy Neves, a mother of two in Cambridge, just west of Boston, did some last-minute shopping at a grocery store, filling

her cart to the brim.

"Honestly, a lot of junk — a lot of quick

things you can make just in case lights go out, a lot of snacks to keep

the kids

busy while they'd be inside during the storm, things to sip with

my friends, things for movies," she said. "Just a whole bunch

of things to keep us entertained."

In heavily Catholic Boston, the archdiocese urged parishioners to be prudent about attending Sunday Mass and reminded them

that, under church law, the obligation "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation."

Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to

Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode

Island could receive more than 2 feet, with most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for

2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches.

By Friday evening, the New York-to-Boston corridor was experiencing blizzard-like conditions, with blowing, swirling snow

and freezing rain. Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries.

Forecasters said wind gusts up to 75 mph could cause widespread power outages and whip the snow into fearsome drifts. Flooding

was expected along coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey the hardest and

is considered Jersey's worst natural disaster.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, said the winter storm was a collision of two storms and may end up among

the Boston area's Top 5 most intense ever.

"When you add two respectable storms together, you're going to get a knockout punch with this one," he said.

It could break Boston's all-time snowstorm

record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003, forecasters said. The storm also

comes almost

35 years to the day after the Blizzard of '78, a ferocious storm

that dropped 27 inches of snow, packed hurricane-force winds

and claimed dozens of lives.

Masters said the region could get a break from warmer air trailing behind that is expected to push temperature up to the 40s

by Monday.

"It's going to be not that difficult to dig out, compared to maybe some other nor'easters in the past, where it stayed cold

after the storm went through," he said.

Drivers were urged to stay off the streets lest their cars get stuck, preventing snowplows and emergency vehicles from getting

through. New York City ran extra commuter trains to help people get home before the brunt of the storm hit.

Amtrak stopped running trains in cities around the Northeast on Friday afternoon. Airlines canceled more than 4,300 flights

through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport shut down.

Interstate 95 was closed to all but essential traffic in Rhode Island, where the governor said power outages remained the

biggest threat.

"With tree branches laden with heavy, wet snow, the winds picking up and the temperatures plunging all at the same time, it's

a bad combination," Gov. Lincoln Chafee said.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick enacted a statewide driving ban for the first time since the Blizzard of '78. Hours before

the ban went into effect at 4 p.m., long lines formed at gas stations, some of which were almost out of fuel.

James Stone said he was saving the remaining regular gas at his station in Abington, south of Boston, for snowplow drivers.

"It hasn't snowed like this in two years," Stone said. "Most people are caught way off-guard."

In New York, Fashion Week, a series of

designer showings with some activities held under tents, went on mostly

as scheduled,

though organizers put on additional crews to deal with the snow

and ice, turned up the heat and fortified the tents. The snow

did require some wardrobe changes: Designer Michael Kors was

forced to arrive at the Project Runway show in Uggs.

For Joe DeMartino, of Fairfield, Conn.,

being overprepared was impossible: His wife was expecting their first

baby Sunday.

He stocked up on gas and food, got firewood ready and was

installing a baby seat in the car. The couple also packed for the

hospital.

"They say that things should clear up by Sunday. We're hoping that they're right," he said.

Said his wife, Michelle: "It adds an element of excitement."

The snow was too much of a good thing in some places. In New Hampshire, the University of Connecticut's Skiing Carnival was

canceled because of the snowstorm. In Maine, the National Toboggan Championships in Camden were postponed from Saturday to

Sunday, and the Camp Sunshine Polar Plunge was put off until March.

At Rosie's Liquors in Abington, customers were lined up eight to 10 deep Friday, snapping up rum, wine and 30-packs of beer.

"We've been absolutely slammed. It's almost been like Christmas here," manager Kristen Brown said. "A lot of people are saying,

'I'm going to be stuck with my family all weekend. I need something to do.'"