Just a few months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast, a massive winter blizzard of historic proportions is expected to dump 2 to 3 feet of snow on the region from New Jersey all the way up the coast to Maine, likely affecting an estimated 50 million people before it’s over.
The nasty storm is again the confluence of two separate storms coming together over the northeastern seaboard, just as Hurricane Sandy brought together multiple storm fronts in October.
“This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,” Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., told CBS. “Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.”
Snow has already started in many places, but the heaviest snowfall is expected tonight and into Saturday, with wind gusts possibly reaching 75 mph — which will make for minimal visibility. Flooding might hit areas on the coasts still trying to recover from Sandy.
In New England, forecasters are already making dramatic predictions about monstrous accumulations, saying this could turn out to be among the 10 biggest snowstorms in history in the region — perhaps even breaking Boston’s record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003.
“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 Station WBZ.
Dunham of the National Weather Service said southern New England has seen less than half its normal snowfall this season but “We’re going to catch up in a heck of a hurry.” He added, “Everybody’s going to get plastered with snow.”
In anticipation of the snow, school was canceled today across New England, in cities such as Boston, Providence and Hartford. In addition, airlines canceled more than 3,700 flights through Saturday.
In New York City, which was expecting 10 to 12 inches, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were in reserve.
“We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell,” Bloomberg said, pointing out that at least the bad weather is arriving on a weekend, when the traffic is lighter and snowplows can more easily clean up the streets.
Amtrak has suspended service in the northeast this afternoon, with no trains scheduled between New York and Boston.
As for driving, forecasters are calling the I-95 corridor today “treacherous,” with whiteout conditions.
The governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts ordered nonessential state workers to stay home Friday and urged residents not to travel.
Terrance Rodriguez, a doorman at a luxury apartment complex in Boston, said despite the doomsday predictions, “it’s just another day in Boston.”
“It’s to be expected. We’re in a town where it’s going to snow,” he said. “It’s like doomsday prep. It doesn’t need to be. People just take it to the extreme.”
In the southeast Massachusetts town of Whitman, where up to 30 inches of snow is forecast, Dennis Smith, a Department of Public Works worker, said, “We’ve had instances where they have predicted something big and it’s petered out. I don’t think this is going to be one of those times.”
Smith’s partner, Bob Trumbull, said at least the relative lack of snow earlier this winter would make this storm easier to clean up.
“At least there is room for this snow. There are no snow banks, so we will have a place to put it,” Trumbull said.