Residents and officials across the US north east and mid-Atlantic regions were bracing on Friday for a powerful winter storm expected to produce blizzard conditions into Saturday.
Heavy snow and strong winds were forecast to begin in parts of the Carolinas and Appalachia on Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service. The system will then intensify and bring snowy conditions up the east coast to New England, where forecasters warned of localized snowfall totals of up to 20in and wind gusts of 50 to 60mph.
Local officials rushed to declare snow emergencies and impose parking bans, warning wind-blown snow could make travel nearly impossible and colder temperatures could mean dangerous wind chills after the storm passes on Saturday night.
En Virginia, where a blizzard earlier this month stranded hundreds of motorists along a major interstate highway for hours, Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency and said officials had begun to position its resources in anticipation of downed trees, electrical outages and major impacts to travel.
The state’s eastern shore faced possible blizzard conditions that could bring winds as high as 50mph, up to a foot of heavy and wet snow and possibly tidal flooding.
“The key message for all Virginians is to stay aware of the weather conditions and to stay off the roads if possible,” the governor said.
Similar snowfall projections were expected up the coast to the Philadelphia and New York City areas, with seaside communities from the New Jersey shore to suburban Long Island and south-eastern Connecticut potentially seeing heavier snowfall rates and stronger winds.
Airlines braced for the highest single-day cancellations in three weeks. By midday Friday, airlines had canceled more than 1,000 flights in the US and scrubbed about 2,500 scheduled for Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware. The hardest-hit airports included those in Chicago, the New York City area and Boston.
In New England, where isolated snow bands could dump nearly 3ft in spots, the inevitable, shelf-clearing rush for bread, huevos, milk and other vittles at grocery stores was well under way.
Regional supermarket giant Stop & Shop pleaded with customers to practice restraint, warning that staffing and supply woes caused by the pandemic will mean barer shelves and longer checkout lines.
“We ask shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbors,” the Quincy, Massachusetts-based grocery chain said.
At Maine Hardware in Portland, a steady stream of customers stocked up on storm essentials as officials took the rare step of issuing a blizzard warning. Rick Tucker, the store’s president, said people were buying generators, snowblowers, shovels, ice melt, sand, heaters, batteries and lanterns.
“It sounds like it’s going to be a big one," él dijo. “We haven’t had one of those for a while. It’s going to be fun.”