The Northeast Corridor was braced Monday for a “potentially historic” blizzard that could pack ferocious winds and dump as much as 3 feet of snow along a 250-mile stretch from northern New Jersey up to southern Maine, affecting as many as 29 million people and potentially crippling New York City and Boston.
The warning issued by the National Weather Service also indicated widespread coastal flooding was possible, starting Monday and extending throughout Tuesday.
“This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Sunday.
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, de Blasio held up a list of the city’s top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872 and includes the 26.9 inches that fell in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst,” he said as he urged residents to plan to leave work early Monday.
“Commuters should consider working from home on Monday if possible to avoid disruptions from likely road and public transportation closures,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “New York State is taking all necessary precautions to prepare for this storm, and I urge residents to put safety first and plan ahead to protect themselves and others throughout the duration of this snowstorm.”
Elsewhere in the region, Boston is expected to get 18 to 24 inches of snow, with up to 3 feet falling west of the city, and Philadelphia could see 14 to 18 inches, the weather service said. NWS lead forecaster Bob Oravec said that wind gusts of 75 mph or more are possible for coastal areas of Massachusetts, with gusts of up to 50 mph further inland.
“We do anticipate very heavy snowfall totals,” Oravec, told the Associated Press. “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.”
One city likely to be spared large amounts of snowfall is Washington D.C., where forecasters expected only a coating or a bit more, with steadily increasing amounts as the storm moves north.
“Looks like our luck is about to run out,” said John Paulsen as he gassed up his SUV in New Jersey. “I can’t complain too much since we’ve had a pretty mild winter, but I don’t know if I’m ready for a foot or so of snow all at once.”
Preparations large and small were in effect elsewhere in New York. A Manhattan Home Depot store sold about twice as many shovels over the weekend as it normally does while transit officials hoping to keep the subways running smoothly planned to use modified subway cars loaded with de-icing fluid to spray the third rail that powers trains.
Wyatt Baars, manager of the Charlestown Ace Hardware in Boston, sold out of his bags of ice-melting pellets. But he said a New Hampshire distributor is helping him and delivering more.
“Everybody is preparing for the storm,” he said. “When we have something this big on the horizon, everybody comes in for the ice melt, snow shovels, snow brooms.”
Snow plow driver Al Laplant expected to be out clearing roads of Simsbury, Connecticut, this week, just as he has for more than two decades.
“We’ll be out there until the storm’s over and then at least three hours after cleaning up,” he said as he attended a home show in Hartford. “We’ll be out there through the whole storm.”
But even for a plow driver, the snow is no cakewalk.
“It’s kind of exhilarating,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve been doing it for 27 years, so I’m kind of tired of it myself.”
At New York’s Penn Station, Cicero Goncalves was waiting for a train to Vermont, where he’s going snowboarding, because he expected the flight he had hoped to take would be canceled.
But the 34-year-old flight attendant from Queens — who was dressed in a full-length bear costume — counted himself and his travel partner as lucky. “We’ll get there before it snows, and we’re coming back when the storm is over, on Thursday,” he said.
The storm could stall before it tracks out to sea, bringing high wind, heavy precipitation and the potential for coastal flooding, the National Weather Service said. It would be the second wallop for the Northeast after what happened Saturday, when a storm crawling up the East Coast left a slushy, snowy coating from Pennsylvania to New England.
The storm dumped at least 9 inches of snow in parts of Pennsylvania and 8 inches in parts of New York, northern New Jersey and northwestern Connecticut, with widespread reports of more than 4 inches in inland areas across southern New England. Lighter amounts were reported in Philadelphia, Boston and New York City, where the snowfall stopped Saturday evening.
About 8 inches of snow fell in far eastern Maine before the storm moved out late Saturday night.
Numerous accidents were reported on the slick roads, but there were no major highway backups in the lighter weekend traffic. Police in Connecticut and Massachusetts were investigating the weather’s role in traffic accidents that killed two people Saturday afternoon.
FoxNews.com / The Associated Press contributed to this report.