Blizzard hits east coast with heavy snow, winds and flooding

BOSTON (AP) — A northeasterly gusty hurricane-force wind battered much of the East Coast on Saturday, throwing heavy snow that made travel treacherous or impossible, flooding coastlines and threatening to leave a freezing cold in its wake.

The storm hit parts of 10 states, with blizzard warnings stretching from Virginia to Maine. Philadelphia and New York saw plenty of wind and snow, but Boston was in the crosshairs. The city could receive more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow by the time it emerges early Sunday.

Winds were blowing up to 83 mph (134 km/h) at Cape Cod in Massachusetts. More than 22 inches (55 centimeters) of snow had fallen by mid-afternoon on part of Long Island in New York, while Bayville, New Jersey had 19 inches (48 centimeters).

The wind stripped the ground in some places and piled the snow into huge snowdrifts in others.

Forecasters watched closely for new snowfall records, particularly in Boston, where the heaviest snowfall was expected later Saturday. The Boston area’s modern snowfall record is 27.6 inches (70 centimeters), set in 2003.

New York and Philadelphia were far from setting all-time records, but still recorded significant snowfall, with at least 7.5 inches (19 centimeters) in New York’s Central Park and at New York’s airport. Philadelphia.

Many flights at airports serving New York, Boston and Philadelphia were canceled on Saturday, according to FlightAware. More than 4,500 flights were canceled across the United States, although airports in the Northeast did not report evidence of mass groundings, as the storm was anticipated and many airlines canceled flights in advance.

Amtrak canceled all of its high-speed Acela trains on the busy Boston-Washington corridor and canceled or limited other services.

In Boston, Dominic Torre had been driving his snow dump truck since the storm began overnight, picking up loads of plowed snow from the streets of Boston and dumping it in unused parking lots called “snow farms.” It was time for such a big storm, he said.

“You know, we were late,” he said. “It’s quite hairy, you know, lots of snow. Lots of snow, lots of travel, lots of loads. And it’s not finished yet. It’s not done yet.

Videos on social media showed wind and waves battering North Weymouth, south of Boston, flooding the streets with a slush of freezing water. Other videos showed an underwater street in Nantucket and waves crashing against the windows of a building in Plymouth.

More than 120,000 homes and businesses have lost power in Massachusetts as outages mount. No other states reported widespread outages.

Climate change, particularly ocean warming, likely influenced the strength of the storm, atmospheric researchers said.

The much warmer ocean waters “certainly play a role in strengthening the storm system and increasing the moisture available to the storm,” said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. “But that’s not the only thing.”

The storm had two saving graces: dry snow less able to snap trees and destroy power lines, and its timing on a weekend, when schools were closed and few people were on the move.

Parts of 10 states were subject to blizzard warnings at one time: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, as well as much of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware , Maryland and Virginia.

The National Weather Service classifies a storm as a blizzard if there is snowfall or blowing snow, along with winds of at least 35 mph (56 km/h) that reduce visibility to a quarter mile or least for at least three hours. In many areas, Saturday’s storm met those criteria.

Rhode Island, which was under a blizzard warning, banned all non-emergency road travel.

In West Hartford, Connecticut, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 84, closing several lanes. Massachusetts has banned heavy trucks from interstate highways.

Ocean City, Maryland, recorded at least a foot (30 centimeters) of snow. Maryland State Police tweeted that soldiers had received more than 670 calls for service and responded to more than 90 accidents by mid-morning.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul advised people to stay home and warned of subzero wind chills after the storm passed. The state had declared a state of emergency on Friday evening.

“It’s a very severe, very severe storm. We prepared for this. It could be life threatening,” Hochul said. “It’s high winds, heavy snow, blizzard conditions – all the elements of a classic northeast.”

Long Island police said they must help motorists stuck in the snow. In Philadelphia, few drivers ventured into streets covered in knee-high drifts.

Hardy New Englanders took the storm in stride.

Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray jokingly invited the public to his suburban Boston home on Saturday for a free snow removal clinic.

“I will provide the walkway and multiple walkways to ensure your training takes place in the most realistic situation,” he said.

Washington and Baltimore had some snow but were largely spared. The worst of the northeast was expected to blow Sunday morning over Canada, where several provinces were under warning.

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Catalini reported from Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Associated Press reporters Rodrique Ngowi in Boston contributed to this report; David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; Jeff McMillan in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; and Ron Todt in Philadelphia.

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