Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday at the start of what's predicted to be a massive, possibly historic blizzard, and residents scurried to stock up on food and supplies ahead of the storm poised to dump up to 3 feet of snow from New York City to Boston and beyond.
In addition to heavy snow accumulation, hurricane-force winds are expected in coastal areas.
Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York's Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Conn., and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine. In Brick Township, N.J., which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas that are still recovering from that storm.
Massachusetts declared a state of emergency. On Friday afternoon Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order banning all non-essential motor vehicle travel statewide beyond 4 p.m., believed to be the first such travel ban since the blizzard of 1978. The ban allows public safety workers, public health workers, utility and others associated with critical functions to continue working.
"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said Friday. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."
The weather has already been blamed for a 19-car pileup on an interstate highway in Falmouth, Me.
Before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 4,000 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions from the blizzard certain to ripple across the U.S.
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving."
The heaviest amounts of snow are expected Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 75 mph.
Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from superstorm Sandy in October.
Boston could see up to three feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 12 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby.
To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches. "We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," Bloomberg said, adding that at least the bad weather is arriving on a weekend, when the traffic is lighter and snowplows can clean up the streets more easily.
New York City: Snow and storm surge
The icy sleet that pelted New York City this afternoon is turning into a full-blown snowstorm Friday evening. By Saturday, Manhattan could be buried under a foot of snow.
Wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour, which could complicate removing some of that snow.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not taking any chances with this storm, after receiving criticism for his management of snow removal during the blizzard of 2010, where some people remained snowbound for days in outer reaches of the city. CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports the city is standing by with 250,000 tons of salt, to be deployed using 365 salt spreaders.
Storm surge is also a concern, with the city expecting three to five feet in some areas - not particularly significant, but for areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island that received so much damage during Superstorm Sandy, there could be localized flooding where those coastal defenses are down.
The organizers of New York's Fashion Week, a closely-watched series of fashion shows being held under a big tent at Lincoln Center, said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.
Most schools across upstate New York are closed or plan to send students home early.