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Northeast braces for powerful blizzard

New York and New England could get as much as 2 feet of snow with winds up to 75 mph. Flights are canceled in the face of a 'major and potentially historic winter storm.'

February 07, 2013|By Alana Semuels and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • Chains are attached to tires at a New York City Department of Sanitation facility as the city prepares for a blizzard.
Chains are attached to tires at a New York City Department of Sanitation… (Justin Lane / European Pressphoto…)

NEW YORK — Parts of the Northeast were bracing Thursday for as much as 2 feet of snow combined with fierce winds of up to 75 mph as a major blizzard was expected to bring misery to the region.

Officials stockpiled ice-fighting supplies and put additional crews on alert from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and metropolitan New York, and up through Maine. The National Weather Service posted winter weather advisories across the area and a blizzard warning for the coast.

Some 900 flights were canceled and thousands more were delayed even though the worst weather was not expected until Friday.

Two weather systems could combine to produce "a major and potentially historic winter storm" for parts of the Northeast, according to the weather service. The storm was expected to gather steam Friday afternoon and last until Saturday.

"It's absolutely going to be a bad storm," said Michael Schlacter, the chief meteorologist for New York weather consulting firm Weather 2000. "It's a little bit of excitement in the local area because we haven't had something like this in two years."

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino canceled school for Friday, ordered nonessential city employees to stay home and put into effect a parking ban.

"This is going to be a very serious storm," he said in a statement. "Safety is our No. 1 priority."

In New York, utilities secured extra crews to help clean up storm damage, and the city's Department of Sanitation issued a snow alert for Friday. The sanitation department is preparing 365 salt spreaders, attaching plows to trucks and preparing tire chains.

"We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters.

The storm system is already being compared with the infamous blizzard of 1978, when record snowfall killed 100 people, dumping 27.1 inches in Boston and 27.6 inches in Providence, R.I. Cars stuck on highways were abandoned, and people made their way around Boston on cross-country skis and snowshoes.

Schlacter said that although it was possible the storm would bring as much snow as the blizzard of 1978, it was unlikely to have the same impact. New weather modeling systems have made it much easier to warn people about when and where the snow will fall the hardest.

Even if the snowfall is relatively light, heavy winds Friday night and Saturday could knock down power lines and trees, Schlacter said.

The Weather Channel, as part of its new policy of naming winter storms, is calling this blizzard Nemo.

New Yorkers seemed unfazed. As Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicked off at Lincoln Center, models could be seen strolling around town in high heels and short skirts.

"At this point it is business as usual. Everyone is still dressed in their highest heels and likely plans to be," said Jodi Hassan, principal at Alison Brod Public Relations, which represents Mercedes-Benz, Jill Stuart and Dannijo. "The blizzard may make people rethink a short skirt without tights for a second or two, but we doubt it will do more than that to our plans."

Michelle DeJesus, 43, lives in Westchester, N.Y., and works in Manhattan. She said she wasn't too worried about the storm, especially since she had water and candles left over from Superstorm Sandy. She wouldn't mind hunkering down and watching movies while the snow falls, she said, especially if the snow shuts down the city as it did for Sandy.

"It was like a mini-vacation," she said.

Semuels reported from New York and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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