Last-minute shoppers cleared grocery store shelves and raided east coast snowblower dealers Friday in anticipation of a storm that could drop 2 feet or more of fast-falling snow into some of the nation’s largest metro areas, including Philadelphia, New York. York and Boston.
Officials from Virginia to Massachusetts declared a state of emergency, imposed parking bans and warned of dangerous travel ahead of wet, heavy snow that could fall up to 5 inches per hour. Parts of 10 states received snow storm warnings.
The storm threatened whiteout conditions, high winds and coastal flooding, followed by intense cold that could leave many people shivering amid power outages. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights in advance.
Merrick McCormack was one of hundreds who packed up a Shaw’s Supermarket in Warwick, Rhode Island, as the entire state was warned of a blizzard and officials mobilized more than 500 snowplows.
“I don’t get involved in storms. I know we’ll be clear and clear in a few days. Don’t panic,” said the 51-year-old Cranston resident, lighting up a little stoically from New England as he unloaded his groceries.
Regional supermarket giant Stop & Shop begged customers to exercise restraint, warning that staffing and delivery difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic will lead to tighter shelves and longer checkout lines.
“We ask customers to buy what they need and keep some for their neighbors,” the supermarket chain said in a statement.
The Boston area, which was under a blizzard warning, could be buried under 18 to 24 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service, with some isolated spots in eastern Massachusetts reaching up to 30 inches.
Coastal New Jersey was predicted to get as much as 18 inches of snow and eastern Long Island up to 17 inches. Philadelphia, New York City, and parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia can get 10 or more.
Washington was predicted to be spared the worst snowfall, with just 1 to 3 inches.
Airlines canceled about 1,300 U.S. flights on Friday and more than 3,100 on Saturday. More than 90 percent of Saturday schedules on Boston’s Logan Airport and LaGuardia in New York were scrubbed, according to FlightAware.
Delta Air Lines said it would suspend flights at its three major airports in the New York area and Logan on Saturday, hoping to resume service Sunday afternoon.
Amtrak has canceled or limited train service on weekends along the busy Washington to Boston corridor.
Snow began falling in parts of Appalachia Friday night and moved north and into the Carolinas from there.
The system was expected to intensify to northeast — a coastal storm winding up the east coast — and blow into New England early Saturday with gusts of up to 70 mph.
The refrain from New York government Kathy Hochul and other heads of state was, “Just stay off the road.”
Massachusetts banned heavy trucks from highways for most of Saturday, and the Boston transit agency said many buses would only run on snowy routes.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan mobilized the National Guard. In Virginia, where a snow storm this month, hundreds of motorists were stranded for hours on Interstate 95, Governor Glenn Youngkin said officials had begun placing resources in anticipation of fallen trees, power outages and flooding.
About 1,800 snowplows were ready in New York City, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said, while in New England some officials were concerned about a driver shortage.
Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said Friday that his workforce has declined about 30 percent this weekend due to COVID-19 and other issues.
The state expects to have more than 600 plow and barn trucks in addition to contractors, but since the snow is expected to fall so quickly, it may not be enough, he said.
“It depends on the length of the storm,” Giulietti said. “Because these people have to keep circling and back on the routes.”
The worst of the storm would blow into Canada on Sunday morning, where several provinces were warned of storms.
Shoppers – some of them looking forward to hibernation – crammed supermarkets for bread, eggs, milk and other staples.
Marc Rudkowski — a 28-year-old machine learning engineer — stocked up on French bread and wine, as well as balloons and toys for his dog, who turned 1 Friday, at the Star Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“He’ll love it. He’s a snow dog,” Rudkowski said.
In Maine, which was also under a blizzard warning, Rick Tucker stayed busy—and cheerful—while customers bought generators, snow blowers, shovels, melt ice and lanterns at Maine Hardware in Portland.
“It sounds like it’s going to be a big one,” said Tucker, the store president. “We haven’t had that in a while. It’s going to be fun.”