JEFFREY BROWN: Millions of people in the Northeast and New England battened down today for a weekend blizzard today. Forecasters warned it could be one for the record books.
By this afternoon, the gathering storm was beginning to whiten the landscape for hundreds of miles, with long hours of snowfall still to come. Fueling the fall, two low-pressure systems, one from the Midwest, the other from the Southeast, colliding over the Northeast and New England.
Blizzard warnings were posted in seven states from New Jersey on up to Maine. At least three declared emergencies, and schools closed in a number of cities. Forecasters predicted New England would get the worst of it, with up to three feet of snow likely in Boston.
Mayor Thomas Menino:
MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, D-Boston: This is a storm of major proportion. Stay off the roads. Stay home. Let the public works crews do their job.
JEFFREY BROWN: The region also braced for winds reaching 75 miles an hour that will pile up drifts and almost guarantee widespread power outages. As ever, the threat prompted shoppers to pack stores, stocking up on supplies.
SUSAN LICHTENSTEIN, Massachusetts: This is panic shopping, so bread, milk, a snow shovel in case our snow shovel breaks.
IAN WATSON, Massachusetts: You have got to plan ahead. A couple feet of snow would shut everything down and, who knows, it could be a couple of days, right?
JEFFREY BROWN: In New York City, predictions called for as much as a foot of snow, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city had marshalled an army of plows and salt trucks.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, I-New York City: The Sanitation Department will deploy something like 1,700 snowplows and 65 front-end loaders. It also has 450 salt-spreaders already deployed.
JEFFREY BROWN: The storm also focused new concern on the New York and New Jersey shore areas still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. They faced the prospect of being flooded again.
MICHAEL BAILEY, New Jersey: We are trying to batten down the hatches here if any storms are coming. And the last one ruined us totally.
JEFFREY BROWN: And long before the worst hit, air travel was in a shambles. Well over 4,000 flights were canceled through Saturday, sending ripple effects across the country. The snow also halted Amtrak and some mass transit service in the Northeast.
And for more on what’s expected tonight and this weekend, we turn to Bernie Rayno, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.
So, what is the latest on the track of the storm and expected snow amounts?
BERNIE RAYNO, AccuWeather: Well, I will tell you what.
The worst of this storm, as we have been pointing out all week, is going to be across Southern New England. Two storms, as you mentioned, and the first storm across the Midwest already producing quite a bit of snow across parts of New York State. But it’s the second storm as it strengthens and moves north and northeast, we’re already starting to get bands of heavy snow now across New England in toward Boston, Providence, Hartford, snowing in New York City.
And by tonight, this storm is really going to start intensifying here. And anywhere in this white, New York City, Providence, Boston — Boston, right up the I-95 toward Bangor, Maine, this whole area is going to start seeing snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour.
We’re going to see wind gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour, and that’s going to produce a lot of blowing and drifting snow, heaviest snow accumulations in the blue here across Southern New England anywhere from 18 to 24 inches, and there will be locations that pick up over two feet.
JEFFREY BROWN: So when you say two storms, what is it that causes a big one like this?
BERNIE RAYNO: Well, there’s three ingredients. Number one, arctic air came in across Northern New England.
That was really the key out of anything. But then we have the storm system coming across the Pacific Northwest, came across the Midwest. That added energy. And it’s that southern storm, though, that added something that we have seen in the last week, Gulf moisture, arctic air, Gulf moisture, and that energy coming in from the west all funneling into one area, Jeff, Southern New England.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, Bernie, when you talk about particular areas of concern, of course, a lot of people looking at the areas that were hit by — well, devastated by Sandy, for example. What about those areas?
BERNIE RAYNO: Well, those areas, they are going to have problems tonight because there’s going to be strong gusty winds along the Jersey coast.
We are going to get coastal flooding and beach erosion, mostly from Long Island all the way up toward Cape Cod and into coastal Maine. But across New Jersey, Long Island, Long Beach Island on north, there is going to be about three to six inches of snow, strong gusty winds, but really this storm will target Southern New England, Boston, Providence and Hartford.
So for the areas New York City on south, it is a formidable storm, about six to 10 inches around New York City, but the worst of this storm right up here in Boston and New England, and it could be historic.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, historic. We talk about — we use that word, we throw that around a bit. How historic? How does this compare to other storms that you have covered?
BERNIE RAYNO: Well, if you take a look at the all-time snow records for Boston, by the way, it’s 27.6 inches of snow back in February of 2003. That is a possibility.
It may run just short, but that is a possibility. They can break that — Providence, 28.6 inches, we could get awfully close to that. Portland may get closer to 27 inches here. So this is a storm that I think for many locations in Southern New England will be a top five storm as far as snowfall production.
But let’s remember we have that wind tonight. And this has already shut down travel. And it will shut down travel across Southern New England. You’re going to see lots of wild weather tonight, Boston, Providence, Hartford. You are going to see snowfall rates of one to three inches per hour, all kind of blowing snow, whiteouts, and you’re going to thunder and lightning as well. That is the kind of storm this is.
JEFFREY BROWN: Bernie Rayno of AccuWeather, thanks so much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We have gathered photos of the snowstorm that you have posted on social media. Find that collection on our website.