Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have declared states of emergency as Winter Storm Nemo begins dumping a massive three feet of snow across the North East Coast.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick banned all vehicles on the road from 4 p.m., and readied 6,000 National Guardsmen as it was revealed 40 million people across the northeast are in Nemo’s path.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told residents to keep out of the streets and warned ‘we’ve got to prepare for the worst case’ as he spoke at a press conference from City Hall.
‘Stay off the city streets, stay out of cars and stay in your homes,’ he said, adding that tonight people should ‘cook a meal, stay at home, read a good book, take it easy’.
Schools across the region have closed, already more than 4,000 flights have been cancelled and residents are being warned not to leave their homes. Lines were seen snaking from gas stations this morning, and supermarket shelves were bare.
With memories of Hurricane Sandy still raw, homes now face a storm meteorologists have described as a potential ‘monster’ which could be the biggest blizzard some cities have seen in a century.
As well as heavy snow accumulation from New York to Boston and beyond, hurricane-force winds are expected in coastal areas – battering the same regions worst affected by Sandy in October.
‘This storm has the potential to be one of those events that you remember for a lifetime,’ said meteorologist Terry Eliasen, executive weather producer of CBS Boston station WBZ-TV.
On Friday, early-morning snow was replaced by rain before midday in New York City – but it is expected to return at around 4 p.m. Rain also washed over Philadelphia.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for New England and the Tri-State area beginning at 6 a.m. today until 1 p.m. on Saturday for the storm.
Boston could see more than two feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 12 inches. To the south, Philadelphia is looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches.
Before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school Friday. In southeast Michigan alone, nearly 700 schools were closed.
Amtrak said its Northeast trains will stop running Friday afternoon, while Peter Pan and Greyhound buses have cancelled routes between New York and Boston.
Ahead of midday in Boston, commuters began crowding the main transit hubs in the rush to get home before the storm began dumping snow and stopping trains.
Carriers announcing schedule changes to flights included Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. The airports most affected by flight cancellations are Newark Liberty, New York’s LaGuardia and JFK and Boston’s Logan International.
All flights in and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport are cancelled this afternoon. Another 1,800 flights in the New York City area are also cancelled, affecting schedule, flight crews and passengers throughout the country.
Philadelphia International Airport is reporting delays on inbound flights an average of 1.5 hours due to low clouds.
Shelves at many stores across the coast were picked clean of food and storm-related supplies such as shovels and snowblowers as areas residents scrambled to prepare. Drivers also lined up at gas stations to fill their tanks.
Adding to the panic, banks have warned residents to make sure they stock up on cash, urging a run on ATMs.
‘Winter Storm #Nemo may bring 2 feet of #snow to New England late Fri & Sat. Prepare now – make sure you have plenty of cash on hand,’ Bank of America tweeted on Thursday night and again on Friday morning.
In Massachusetts, the state’s court system will close at noon, but judges will still be on call to handle emergencies, such as requests for restraining orders.
The public transport system, the MBTA, will also close at 3.30 p.m. and will not re-open until Monday, officials have said.
Across the northeastern states, officials warned people to stay in their homes and avoid the roads.
‘This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,’ said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. ‘Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.’
The organizers of New York’s Fashion Week – a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent – said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.