By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) -A powerful Nor’easter storm is expected to hammer New England and the Middle Atlantic region this weekend with blizzard-like conditions and up to two feet of snow, making travel treacherous and bringing flooding to coastal areas.
The National Weather Service (NWS) on Friday issued a blizzard warning for the Boston metropolitan area, which has a population of nearly 4.9 million residents.
About 24 inches of powder (60 cm) and wind gusts of 70 miles (112 km) per hour were forecast starting on Saturday. Southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the island of Martha’s Vineyard, were expected to get the highest snow totals.
“We’re declaring a snow emergency starting tonight,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a Tweet. “Residents are encouraged to stay home.”
Winter storm advisories and warnings were also in effect from the Carolinas up through Maine, where at least a foot of snow was forecast to start falling Friday afternoon and continue on Saturday, the NWS said. Wind gusts could reach 50 miles per hour.
“It will make travel pretty much impossible,” said Patrick O’Hara, an NWS meteorologist based in New Jersey. “It is the first very big storm of the year. Every few years we get one. It’s not extremely unusual.”
The storm was approaching 44 years to the day after a monstrous blizzard crippled New England. Striking with little warning and dumping more than 27 inches of snow on Boston, the 1978 storm shut down major highways for a week, trapped residents in their homes and killed dozens of people.
On Friday morning, more than 2,000 Saturday flights had already been canceled, including 230 out of Boston’s Logan International Airport. [L4N2U848F]
New York City, the nation’s biggest metropolis, may see nine inches of snow, forecasters said.
“As we head into the weekend, please closely follow local forecasts, stay off the roads, and avoid unnecessary travel,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Twitter.
Local media throughout the region reported that grocery stores were crowded with shoppers trying to stock up on essentials before the storm hit.
“I just spent over $100 for groceries ahead of this alleged “storm.” Snow girl, if you gon’ do it, do it big,” Twitter user ChelsLynne17 posted on the social media platform.
The weather service warned that blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility and strong winds could bring down tree branches and knock out power in parts of the region.
Libraries, churches, clinics and various retail stores in the region said they were closing on Saturday.
“We will be closed tomorrow, Saturday the 29th, for the snow storm. Call us wimps, if you dare…” said RiverRun Bookstore, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, retailer, in a Tweet.
Some parts of coastal Atlantic were also facing the possibility of flooding in low-lying areas and vulnerable roadways, the NWS said.
The storm system will push temperatures down. Highs will range from 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below average across the eastern third of the U.S. on Saturday.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Bernard Orr and Mark Porter)