A powerful nor’easter swept up the East Coast on Saturday, threatening to bury parts of 10 states under deep, furiously falling snow accompanied by coastal flooding and high winds that could cut power and leave people shivering in the cold weather expected to follow.
Philadelphia, New York and Boston — the latter of which was under a blizzard warning and forecast to get as much as 2 feet of snow — were all in the path of the storm. Airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights at some of the nation’s busiest airports. Amtrak suspended or limited service on the Boston-to-Washington corridor.
Officials from Virginia to Maine warned people to stay off the roads amid potential whiteout conditions.
Rhode Island, all of which was under a blizzard warning, banned all nonemergency road travel starting at 8 a.m.
“This is serious. We’re ready for this storm, and we also need Rhode Islanders to be ready,” Gov. Dan McKee said. “The best way to handle this storm is to stay home tomorrow.”
Delaware allowed only essential personnel to drive in two of its three counties starting Friday night. Massachusetts, where forecasters said some isolated pockets could get as much as 30 inches of snow, banned heavy trucks from interstate highways for most of Saturday.
Shoppers crammed stores Friday to stock up on food and buy generators and snowblowers ahead of the nor’easter, a type of storm so named because its winds typically blow from the northeast as it churns up the East Coast.
Many hardy New Englanders took the forecast cheerfully and even looked forward to the storm, given its weekend timing.
Marc Rudkowski, 28, bought French bread and wine Friday at the Star Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with balloons and toys for his dog, who turned 1 on Friday.
“He’s going to love it,” Rudkowski said. “He’s a snow dog.”
Merrick McCormack was calm as he unloaded his groceries at a supermarket in Warwick, Rhode Island.
“I don’t fuss with storms. I know in a couple of days, we’re going to be free and clear. No need to panic,” said McCormack, 51, of Cranston.
But there were some concerns about hoarding amid ongoing supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. New England supermarket giant Stop & Shop pleaded with customers to practice restraint.
“We ask shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbors,” the chain said in a statement.
Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Areas closest to the coast were expected to bear the brunt of the storm, which could bring wind gusts as high as 70 mph (113 kph) in New England.
Coastal New Jersey was forecast to get as much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow and eastern Long Island up to 17 inches (43 centimeters). Philadelphia, New York City, and parts of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could get 10 inches (25 centimeters) or more.
Virginia, where a blizzard this month stranded hundreds of motorists for hours on Interstate 95, did not hesitate to get resources at the ready. In Maryland, the governor mobilized the National Guard.
Washington and Baltimore were forecast to be spared the worst of the snowfall, with only 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 8 centimeters) and 5 inches (13 centimeters), respectively.
Snow could fall as fast as 5 inches per hour in spots, including Connecticut, where officials worried about having enough snowplow drivers amid shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.
The worst of the storm was expected to blow by Sunday morning into Canada, where several provinces were under warnings.
One saving grace, at least in parts of Massachusetts: The snow should fall light and flaky because it is coming with cold weather that dries it out, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for the commercial firm Atmospheric Environmental Research.
That means lousy snowballs — and snow that’s less capable of snapping tree branches and tearing down power lines.