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Massive power outages as Northeast blizzard turns deadly

8:39 AM, Feb 9, 2013   |    comments
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A blizzard predicted to be of epic proportions is pounding the Northeast, already bringing more than 3 feet of snow to some areas and cutting power to 650,000 homes and businesses.

More than 3 feet had fallen on central Connecticut by early Saturday, and areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire notched 2 feet or more of snow - with more falling.

The storm is being blamed on at least four deaths in New York and Canada. In New York, a 74-year-old man died after being struck by a car in Poughkeepsie; the driver said she lost control in the snowy conditions, police said.

Hurricane-force wind gusts are sweeping the Northeast, and a gust of 76 mph was recorded at Logan airport. Blizzard warnings are in effect for the New York City metro area and many coastal sections of New England.

More than 5,200 flights in the region have been canceled through Saturday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.

In the New York City area, John F. Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport were open as of 7 a.m. Saturday, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Some commercial flights were expected to resume as early as 9 a.m., but carriers have canceled many flights. Travelers were urged to call ahead and check with their carriers for specific flight information.

The storm is now officially the sixth-greatest in Boston history, according to the National Weather Service. An official snow total from Boston's Logan Airport this morning registered 21.8 inches, which puts it in sixth place on the all-time list. Snow is still falling in Boston, so that number is likely to go up.

In New York City, the official snowfall total at Central Park is 11.4 inches. New Haven, Conn., has already seen 29.8 inches of snow and 34 inches were dumped on Hamden, Conn., according to the National Weather Service.

The highest snowfall total so far is in Milford, Conn., which has received 38 inches.

Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered all roads closed statewide early Saturday.

"It's critical right now that residents stay off the roads, so that our plows can continue their efforts to clear our streets and highways," said Malloy. "This is a record setting storm. It's going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process. Unless you face an emergency, please stay put."

Police in New York say hundreds of cars have gotten stuck on the Long Island Expressway because of the blizzard conditions and dozens of disabled motorists are still on the road. The Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway are both shut down in Suffolk County except for emergency vehicles. The snow also caused a 19-car, four-hour pileup on I-295 near Cumberland, Maine. Several people had minor injuries, police said. In Vermont, which could get 4 to 16 inches of snow, the storm was being blamed for a series of crashes on I-89 in Bolton and South Burlington. Two people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

 

Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts have declared states of emergencies.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick banned all traffic from roads Friday afternoon, believed to be the state's first such ban since the blizzard of 1978. Forecasters said Boston could get more than the 27.5-inch record of 2003.

Utility officials are warning customers to prepare for power outages lasting for days. New England and New York are expected to take the hardest hit, but others around the country could feel the ripple effect from canceled flights and trains and snarled traffic along the Eastern Seaboard, parts which are still reeling from the fallout of October's Superstorm Sandy.

In New Jersey, residents of Brick Township and Toms River, both crippled by Sandy, were urged to evacuate Friday.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker urged residents to prepare for widespread power failures. Booker, a prolific Twitter user, urged his nearly 1.4 million followers to get ready for the storm. "Nwk's City Snow Team is prepared for 6-12 inches," he tweeted from @corybooker a couple minutes after 5 p.m. on Thursday. "We have many snow assets in reserve should storm get worse. Please take time 2 prepare too."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the blizzard wasn't expected to rival Sandy's fallout, but urged everyone to "stay in your homes while the worst of the storm is upon us."

He urged New Yorkers to leave work early and avoid commuting Friday evening, when meteorologists predict the snowfall to intensify.

The New York City metro area, home to three airports and 20 million residents in four states, was bracing for up to 12 inches of snow, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

 

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino said the city has 34,000 pounds of salt to treat icy roads. "Stay off the roads. Stay home. Let the public works crews do their jobs," Merino said.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth experienced an automatic shutdown at around 9:15 p.m. Friday after losing off-site power. Spokesman Neil Sheehan says that the reactor shut down without any problems and that backup generators are powering plant equipment.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there's no threat to public safety.

The storm isn't expected to have a major economic impact on New England, said economist David Iaiaof Lexington, Mass.-based IHS Global Insight.

"If everything just shuts down for a day, the vast majority of business merely gets shifted to before the storm or after the storm," Iaia said.

Gary Strauss, Doyle Rice and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
Contributing: Melanie Eversley, Ben Mutzabaugh, Stephanie Haven; Alesha Williams, Laura Petrecca, Natalie DiBlasio, TIm Mullaney; Associated Press

Gannett/USA Today

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