A massive blizzard has begun to dump snow on the northeastern United States, where six states have already declared states of emergency and tens of thousands are without power.
By early Saturday, more than 47cm of snow had fallen in parts of central Connecticut, and more than 40cm covered parts of Mansfield, Massachusetts, a half-hour drive southwest of Boston. More than 500,000 homes and businesses have lost electricity as wet, heavy snow, freezing rain and howling winds caused havoc.
From New Jersey to Maine, shoppers on Friday crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators.
Airlines cancelled more than 4,300 flights through Saturday, and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick banned all traffic from roads Friday afternoon, believed to be the state's first such ban since the blizzard of 1978.
"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Flights cancelled, roads cleared
The heaviest snowfall was expected Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach more than 120kph.
Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from superstorm Sandy in October.
Live Box 20132983150515123
The snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25m people have to go back to work.
The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to a meter of snow by Saturday evening. Connecticut was bracing for only slightly less, and New York City was expecting as much as 36cm. East of New York City, nearly a foot of snow had fallen before midnight Friday.
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, including Hartford, New Haven, Connecticut, and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.
Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine on Friday morning.
Amtrak rail stopped its Northeast trains Friday afternoon, and airlines cancelled more than 4,300 flights for Friday and Saturday. New York City's three main airports and Boston's Logan started shutting down in the afternoon.
This is likely to be the biggest snow storm to hit the densely populated corridor so far this winter, and came a little over three months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the same area of New York City and New Jersey, killing 132 people and causing damage worth more than $70bn.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came under withering criticism for the city's flat-footed response to a blizzard in 2010, said residents should prepare for the worst.
"Due to potential power outages and transportation difficulties, New Yorkers are advised to stock up on potential supplies, including medicine," Bloomberg said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies