East Coast Buttons before the snow storm; Boston could get 2 feet

BOSTON – Last-minute shoppers emptied grocery shelves and raided snowblower dealers Friday along the East Coast ahead of a storm that could drop 2 feet or more of fast-falling snow across some of the largest metropolitan areas across the country, including Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Authorities from Virginia to Massachusetts declared a state of emergency, imposed parking bans and warned of dangerous travel ahead of heavy, wet snowfall that could fall at a rate of 5 inches per hour. Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings.

The storm threatened whiteout conditions, high winds and coastal flooding, followed by severe cold that could send many people shivering amid power outages. Airlines canceled thousands of flights in advance.

Merrick McCormack was among hundreds who filled a Shaw supermarket in Warwick, Rhode Island, with the entire state under a blizzard warning and officials mobilizing more than 500 snow plows.

“I don’t care about storms. I know that in a few days we will be free and clear. No need to panic,” the 51-year-old Cranston resident said, displaying a certain New England stoicism as he unloaded his groceries.

Regional supermarket giant Stop & Shop has pleaded with customers to exercise restraint, warning that staffing and supply issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic will mean emptier shelves and longer queues.

“We’re asking shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbors,” the grocery chain said in a statement.

The Boston area, which was under a blizzard warning, could be buried in 18 to 24 inches of snow, with some isolated spots in eastern Massachusetts up to 30 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The Jersey Shore is expected to receive up to 18 inches of snow and eastern Long Island up to 17 inches. Philadelphia, New York and parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could get 10 or more.

Washington was expected to be spared the worst of the snowfall, with just 1 to 3 inches.

Airlines canceled about 1,300 US flights on Friday and more than 3,100 on Saturday. More than 90% of Saturday schedules at Boston’s Logan Airport and New York’s LaGuardia have been eliminated, according to FlightAware.

Delta Air Lines said it will suspend flights at the three major New York-area airports and Logan on Saturday, hoping to resume service Sunday afternoon.

Amtrak has canceled or limited weekend train service along its busy corridor from Washington to Boston.

Snow began falling Friday night in parts of Appalachia and was sweeping north from there and into the Carolinas.

The system was expected to intensify into a northeasterly – a coastal storm that rocks the eastern seaboard – and sweep across New England early Saturday with wind gusts of up to 70 mph.

The refrain of New York Governor Kathy Hochul and other state executives was, “Just stay off the roads.

Massachusetts banned heavy trucks from interstate highways for most of Saturday, and the Boston-area transit agency said many buses would only operate on snow-covered roads.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan mobilized the National Guard. In Virginia, where a blizzard this month stranded hundreds of motorists for hours on Interstate 95, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said authorities have begun positioning resources in anticipation of downed trees, power outages current and tidal flooding.

About 1,800 snowplows were ready in New York City, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said, while in New England some officials worried about a shortage of drivers.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said Friday its workforce was down about 30% over the weekend due to COVID-19 and other issues.

The state plans to have more than 600 plows and sanding trucks in addition to contractors, but with the snow expected to fall so quickly, that might not be enough, he said.

“It depends on how long the storm lasts,” Giulietti said. “Because these people have to keep going around in circles and getting back on the roads.”

The worst of the storm was expected to blow Sunday morning across Canada, where several provinces were under storm warnings.

Shoppers – some of them looking forward to hibernation – stocked grocery stores with bread, eggs, milk and other staples.

Marc Rudkowski — a 28-year-old machine learning engineer — stocked up on Star Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for French bread and wine, as well as balloons and toys for his dog, who turned 1 on Friday.

“He’s going to love this. He’s a snow dog,” Rudkowski said.

In Maine, which was also under a blizzard warning, Rick Tucker was busy — and cheerful — as customers bought generators, snowblowers, shovels, ice melters and lanterns from Maine Hardware in Portland.

“Looks like it’s going to be a big one,” said Tucker, the store’s president. “We haven’t had one for a while. It’s gonna be fun.”

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