Region Brought to Standstill as Blizzard Renders Roads “”Treacherous”

Schools are already cancelling classes, and officials are urging people to stay off the roads

Communities across New England mobilized snowplows and airlines canceled thousands of flights heading into Tuesday as a potentially historic storm pushed its way up the Northeast corridor with what forecasters said could be up to 3 feet of snow.

More than 6,700 flights were canceled or delayed, schools planned to close early, and officials in some states issued travel bans. Courts and many town offices are also planning to close for the storm.

The National Weather Service said the nor'easter would bring heavy snow, powerful winds and widespread coastal flooding starting Monday and through Tuesday. A blizzard warning was issued for a 250-mile stretch of the Northeast, including parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Boston's Logan International Airport said there would be no flights after 7 p.m. Monday, and did not expect to resume flights until late Wednesday.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a State of Emergency at noon and said he is implementing a statewide travel ban at midnight. He warned residents to prepare for roads that may be "impassable," extended power outages and coastal flooding.

All state offices will be closed Tuesday, and the MBTA will stop operating after midnight. In Connecticut, the Metro-North New Haven Line will suspend service, with the last train departing New York's Grand Central Terminal at 9 p.m.

Amtrak has also suspended rail service for Tuesday between New York and Boston, as well as the Downeaster service between Maine and Boston.

"Based on the latest weather forecasts, numerous conversations with the National Weather Service and the team at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, we anticipate a very significant storm, beginning around dusk on Monday evening," Baker said. "The peak of the storm is expected to occur between midnight Monday and midday Tuesday, but snow will continue to fall well into Tuesday night."

He said outages are expected to be widespread, and could last multiple days. He said the outages are likely to be worse in Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties due to wetter snow and high winds. In some places winds will reach 75 mph, and in others 50-60 mph sustained, which will knock down trees and take down power lines.

"Whiteout conditions and treacherous roads will make driving anywhere extremely dangerous starting around midnight tonight and extending through most of Tuesday," he said. "I can't stress this part enough - stay off the roads."

Already on Monday night, conditions were bad enough on the Mass Turnpike that the speed limit from the New York border to Weston had been lowered to 40 mph.

The travel ban does not include emergency personnel and hospital employees.

In a late afternoon briefing at the state's emergency bunker in Framingham, the governor urged residents to "hunker down and stay put" during the blizzard, which could bring widespread power outages and possible flooding along the state's coastline.

Shelters are already open in numerous communities across Massachusetts.

The threat of coastal flooding is also real, and Baker said the storm could cause damage to coastal roads.

Mayor Marty Walsh announced Monday afternoon that Boston Public Schools would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. A citywide parking ban will go into effect at 6 p.m. Monday, and cars will be towed beginning at 8 p.m.

"You should not be driving in the city of Boston," Walsh said.

Walsh reminded residents to check on their neighbors, particularly elderly and disabled people.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered a travel ban on Connecticut highways starting at 9 p.m., and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered a travel ban in her state starting at midnight.

"Although storms can be unpredictable, this storm has the potential to have a significant impact on the state and we need to be prepared," Malloy said. "Just as the state is monitoring and preparing, the public should do the same."

Malloy said all non-essential first and second shift state employees will not report to work Tuesday, and he encouraged businesses to close on Tuesday to allow employees to observe the travel ban.

Raimondo said Monday morning that it will be a "bad, severe storm" and could be dangerous. She signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire, but said no official travel ban is in effect. State officials are urging people to stay off the roads, however.

New Hampshire state government and courts will be closed on Tuesday.

"With possible whiteout and blizzard-like conditions throughout the day, Granite Staters should stay at home if at all possible and avoid the roads, as they will be dangerous," Hassan said. "People should make sure that they have emergency supplies and are prepared to stay at home for one or two days, and I ask you to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly or people with disabilities, throughout the course of the storm."

Some Maine schools and businesses are also closing their doors. The U.S. District Court in both Portland and Bangor will be closed Tuesday and will open late, at 10 a.m., on Wednesday.

The Maine Turnpike Authority is asking residents to avoid all non-emergency travel during the storm.

"We urge motorists to avoid travel unless necessary," said Peter Mills, executive director of the MTA. "Mainers pull together in times like these, and the best way to help is to stay off the roads and let the crews fight the storm."

Vermont looks like it will be the least affected of the New England states, though it could still see more than a foot of snow in some areas.

Parts of New England are expected to get up to 2 feet of snow, with the possibility of 3 feet of snow in some areas.

"We do anticipate very heavy snowfall totals," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland. "In addition to heavy snow, with blizzard warnings, there's a big threat of high, damaging winds, and that will be increasing Monday into Tuesday. A lot of blowing, drifting and such."

President Barack Obama, who is traveling in India, has been briefed on the storm, spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. White House officials also have been in touch with officials from states "up and down the Eastern seaboard" that are in the storm's path, Earnest said.

Wind gusts of 75 mph or more are possible for coastal areas of Massachusetts, and up to 50 mph further inland, Oravec said.

The Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots left before the storm arrived in Boston. A rally was held at 11 a.m. at Boston City Hall, and the team plans to leave Logan Airport at 12:30 p.m. Monday for Phoenix, where the temperature will reach the high 60s.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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