NEW YORK – Parts of the Northeast were bracing Thursday for as much as two 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 across the region, stretching from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and metropolitan New York, then up through Maine. The National Weather Service posted winter weather advisories across the area and a blizzard warning for the coast.
Roughly 900 flights were canceled and thousands more were delayed even though the worst weather was not expected until today.
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 is expected to gather steam this afternoon and last until Saturday.
“This one doesn’t come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm,” said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. “Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don’t plan on leaving.”
Boston could get more than 2 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 14 inches. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches.
Before the first snowflake had even fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school today.
In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino ordered non-essential city employees to stay home today, 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 today. The 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 Bloomberg told reporters.
The storm system is already being compared to the infamous Blizzard of ’78, when record snowfall killed 100, dumping 27.1 inches in Boston and 27.6 inches in Providence, R.I.
Michael Schlacter, the chief meteorologist for New York weather consulting company Weather 2000, said that while it is possible this storm will bring as much snow as the blizzard of 1978, it is unlikely to have the same effect. New weather modeling systems have made it much easier to warn people about when and where the snow will fall the hardest.
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 isn’t too worried about the storm yet, especially since she has water and candles left over from Hurricane 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.