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New week, new blizzard for winter-weary New England









By Elizabeth Barber

BOSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Northeast on Saturday braced for yet another blizzard, which looks set to hit parts of New England that are already buried under record-setting snow, forecasters said.

More than 50 million people from Michigan to southern Canada were in the path of the storm, which was tracking east over the Great Lakes and gaining strength as it approached the Atlantic coast, the National Weather Service said.

The most severe weather was heading for the New England coast, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire, late Saturday into Sunday. Forecasters expected heavy snow accompanied by hurricane-force wind gusts of up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.

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Boston has already received about 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow since late January and set a record for accumulations in a single week. The city is now bracing for as much as 14 inches (36 cm) of fresh powder.

For many retailers and restaurants, the Valentine's Day arrival of the storm was their worst nightmare. Sales at malls could suffer as motorists stay off the roads, and eateries fear that many couples will opt for dinner at home instead of a romantic meal out.

"This was really going to be gangbuster weekend,” said Joe Cassinelli, 38, who owns three restaurants in Somerville, just north of Boston. "All the restaurants in the area are basically trying to survive this winter, and we were all looking to Valentine’s Day."

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker instead declared “Valentine’s Week," encouraging loved ones to support local businesses by buying flowers, candy and restaurant meals sometime in the coming days.

In New Hampshire, the town of Alton called off its annual ice carnival this weekend due to concerns over massive snow squalls and wind gusts.

Even before the brunt of the storm moved in, the weather had disrupted travel at East Coast airports, with more than 1,300 flights canceled in the United States as of Saturday afternoon, according to Flightaware.com, a website that tracks air traffic.

Forecasters said the driving winds and extreme cold made this storm particularly treacherous.

The wind chill in Boston could hit minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 Celsius) on Monday, with a wind chill of minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 Celsius) predicted for western Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said.

As the storms keep coming, Boston has struggled to find places to put all the snow. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that the city was relying on 10 local dumping grounds, called snow farms, while seeking more dumping grounds.

The city also borrowed two snow melters from New York City in preparation for the weekend onslaught.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority suspended all service on Sunday, including buses, commuter rail and subways.

The move come days after MBTA head Beverly Scott announced her resignation following a controversial decision to shut down rail service during an earlier storm.

For some Bostonians, who pride themselves on their resilience, the weather was simply one more battle to be won.

"We’re salty New Englanders,” said Cassinelli, the restaurateur. “You have to keep fighting.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Barber in Boston; Writing by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Tom Heneghan)