(NEW YORK) — A blizzard of possibly historic proportions began battering the Northeast on Friday, and could bring more than two feet of snow to some areas, along with strong winds.
A storm from the west joined forces with one from the south to form a nor’easter that will sit and spin just off the East Coast, affecting more than 43 million Americans. Wind gusts were forecast to reach 50 to 60 mph from Philadelphia to Boston.
Cape Cod, Mass., could possibly see 75 mph gusts. Boston and other parts of New England could see more than two feet of snow by Saturday.
The storm showed the potential for such ferocity that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon and signed an executive order banning vehicular traffic on roads in his state effective at 4 p.m. ET. It was believed that the last time the state enacted such a ban was during the blizzard of 1978. Violating the ban could result in a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.
“[It] could definitely be a historic winter storm for the Northeast,” said Adrienne Leptich of the National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y. “We’re looking at very strong wind and heavy snow and we’re also looking for some coastal flooding.”
Airlines began shutting down operations Friday afternoon at major airports in the New York area as well as in Boston, Providence, R.I., and other Northeastern airports. By early evening Friday, more than 4,300 flights had been cancelled for Friday and Saturday, according to FlightAware. Airlines hoped to resume flights by Saturday afternoon, though normal schedules were not expected until Sunday.
In anticipation of the storm, Amtrak said its Northeast trains would stop running Friday afternoon.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said clearing the roads was his main concern, and the city readied 1,700 snow plows and 250,000 tons of salt to clear the streets. Up to 14 inches of snow was expected in New York City, and the heaviest amounts were expected to fall Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts of 55 mph were expected in New York City.
Parts of New York, still reeling from October’s superstore Sandy, were still using tents and were worried about how they would deal with the nor’easter.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared a state of emergency, deploying National Guard troops across the state to assist in rescues and other emergencies. Schools and state courthouses were closed, and all flights after 1:30 p.m. at Bradley Airport, north of Hartford, Conn., were cancelled. The state’s largest utility companies planned for the possibility that 30 percent of customers — more than 400,000 homes and businesses — would lose power. Malloy also directed drivers to stay off the state’s major highways.
Beach erosion and coastal flooding is possible from New Jersey to Long Island, N.Y., and into New England coastal areas. Some waves off the coast could reach more than 20 feet.
Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York’s Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.
To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches of snow.
Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service said travel conditions would deteriorate fairly rapidly Friday night.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Matt McFarland, CNN
Ralph Ellis and Rashard Rose, CNN