by Philip Marcelo | The Associated Press
BOSTON — Shoppers cleared grocery shelves at the last minute and raided snowblower dealers along the U.S. East Coast on Friday, expecting heavy, fast-falling snow to hit some of the nation’s largest metro areas, including Philadelphia. , New York and Boston.
Officials from Virginia to Massachusetts rushed to declare a snow emergency, impose parking restrictions and restrict travel before wet snow fell at speeds of up to 5 inches per hour.
The storm threatened blizzard conditions, high winds and coastal flooding in some areas, as well as severe cold weather that could leave many people shivering amid power outages. Airlines have already canceled hundreds of flights.
Merrick McCormack was among hundreds who packed a Shaw’s supermarket in Warwick, Rhode Island under a blizzard warning and officials gathered more than 500 snowflakes.
“I’m not bothered by storms. I know that in a few days, we’re going to be free and clear. No need to panic,” said the 51-year-old Cranston resident, showing some of the New England stoicism as she walked her grocery store. Unloaded stuff.
Regional supermarket giant Stop & Shop urged customers to exercise restraint, warning that staffing and supply problems due to the coronavirus pandemic will mean barre shelves and long checkout lines.
“We ask shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbours,” the grocery chain said in a statement.
Airlines canceled nearly 1,300 US flights on Friday and more than 3,100 flights on Saturday. More than 90% of Saturday’s schedules at Boston’s Logan Airport and New York’s LaGuardia were scrutinized, according to FlightAware.
Amtrak canceled or limited weekend train service along its busy corridor from Washington to Boston.
Snow began in parts of Appalachia Friday evening and was expected to begin in the Carolinas later.
The system was expected to intensify as a nor’easter and bring snow to New England on Saturday, where forecasters warned of wind gusts of 20 inches (51 cm) and gusts up to 60 mph (96 kph) Was. About 3 feet (1 meter) of snow may be visible in some isolated places.
Officials warned of a whiteout situation. Common refrain from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other state officials: “Just stay off the streets.”
In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan mobilized the State National Guard, expecting up to a foot of snow to fall along parts of the state’s east coast. Washington could see from 1 to 3 inches.
In Virginia, where a blizzard this month trapped hundreds of motorists on Interstate 95 for hours, Governor Glenn Youngkin said officials had already begun to position resources in anticipation of downed trees, power outages and possible tidal flooding. had done
Similar weather was expected in the areas of Philadelphia and New York City. Seaside communities from the Jersey Shore to suburban Long Island and southeastern Connecticut can see higher snowfall rates and stronger winds than larger cities.
Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said about 1,800 snowplows were ready for deployment in New York City, and workers were already spreading salt on hundreds of miles of roads before the storm.
Some New England officials were concerned about a shortage of snowplow drivers.
Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said Friday that his staffing is down about 30% this weekend due to COVID-19 and other issues.
The state expects more than 600 plows and sand-laden trucks with additional contractors, but with an estimated snowfall rate of 5 inches per hour, this may not be enough, he said.
“It depends on the length of the storm,” Giulietti said. “Because these people have to keep going round and back on the routes.”
Across the Northeast, shelf-clearing crowds for bread, eggs, milk and other staples were well underway at grocery stores on Friday.
At Cambridge’s Star Market, Mark Rudkowski was among those who practically giggled at the prospect of snowfall over the weekend. The 28-year-old machine learning engineer stocks balloons and toys for his pup, along with French bread and wine. Which turned 1 year old on Friday.
“He’s going to love it. He’s a Snow Dog,” said Rudkowski.
In Maine, where a blizzard warning was issued, Rick Tucker kept busy as customers bought generators, snowblowers, shovels, snow melts, lanterns and other essentials at Maine Hardware in Portland on Friday.
“Looks like it’s going to be a big one,” said the store’s president. “We haven’t had one of those for a while. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Contributing to this report was Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela in New York; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Ben Finlay in Norfolk, Virginia; Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant, New Jersey; Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut; Steve LeBlanc in Cambridge, Massachusetts; In Warwick, Rhode Island, William J. cole; David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; and David Koenig, author of Airlines.