BOSTON — Snow began to fall around the Northeast on Friday at the start of what's predicted to be a massive, possibly historic blizzard, and residents scurried to stock up on food and supplies ahead of the storm poised to dump up to 3 feet of snow from New York City to Boston and beyond.
Even before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other towns and cities in New England and upstate New York towns canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 3,700 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions from the blizzard certain to ripple across the U.S.
"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."
The heaviest snowfall was expected Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 75 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.
Boston could get 2 to 3 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 12 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 2 to 5 inches.
In the southeast Massachusetts town of Whitman, where up to 30 inches of snow is forecast, public works crews were clearing crosswalk signs, trash barrels and anything else that might impede plows later in the day.
"We've had instances where they have predicted something big and it's petered out," said Dennis Smith, a DPW worker. "I don't think this is going to be one of those times."
Smith's partner, Bob Trumbull, sounded a note of optimism, saying the relative lack of snow earlier this winter would make this storm easier to clean up.