Officials’ warning took effect from New Jersey through southern Maine. Boston is forecast to bear the most serious damages from the upcoming disaster. Friday was expected to begin with light snow, with winds and snow getting much stronger by afternoon.
Residents of the state are urged to stay home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions, Reuters reports.
Boston and its nearby communities announced that the schools would be closed on Friday, and nonessential city workers would be allowed to stay home. Officials also urged businesses to free workers from work or to let them work from home or on shortened schedules.
“Accumulation is expected to be swift, heavy and dangerous,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told reporters. “I am ordering all non-essential state workers to work from home tomorrow. I am strongly urging private employers to take the same precautions.”
“We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters. “Stay put after noontime tomorrow.”
According to the National Weather Service, the city is expected to get 18 to 24 inches of snow (45 to 60 cm) on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years.
“It’s the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening and overnight when the height of the storm will be,” said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The agency also warned that the heavy snow and winds across the north-east would considerably worsen driving conditions, “with visibilities near zero in white-out conditions”. It said some tree limbs “will be downed, causing scattered power outages”.
“This has the potential for being a dangerous storm, especially for Massachusetts into north-east Connecticut and up into Maine,” said Louis Uccellini, the director of the NWS’s National Centers for Environment Prediction.
He went on, adding that the winter storm will be the type where “you can’t let your guard down”.
Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, are predicted to see at least a foot of snow.
Airlines have already canceled more than 2,200 flights planned for Friday, if the information provided by FlightAware.com is true to live, with the largest number of cancellations at airports in Newark, New York, Chicago and Boston.
In New York, meteorologists forecast from 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of snow. Mayor of the city, Michael Bloomberg, told reporters he hoped the forecasters were “exaggerating,” but noted that the city snow removal crews would be ready to act.
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said power outages were a top worry.
“It being winter, folks losing their power means they’re also losing their heat, and if you lose heat during the middle of the storm, you’re not going to be able to go out to get to a shelter,” he said.