US Blizzard “Nemo” Update: Blizzard blankets U.S. Northeast and five – state emergency

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Two feet of snow expected in Boston, driving ban

* About 5,000 flights canceled

* More than 600,000 power outages

* Fresh flood risk to areas recovering from Sandy

A blizzard slammed into the northeastern United States on Friday, snarling traffic, disrupting thousands of flights and prompting five governors to declare states of emergency in the face of a fearsome snowstorm.

Forecasters warned that about 2 feet (60 cm) of snow would blanket most of the Boston area with some spots getting as much as 30 inches (76 cm). New York was due to get about a foot (30 cm) in some areas, while heavy snowfall was also expected in Connecticut and Maine.

Winds were blowing at 35 to 40 miles per hour (56 to 64 km per hour) by Friday afternoon and forecasters expected gusts up to 60 mph (97 kph) as the evening wore on. Driving conditions were treacherous. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took the rare step of announcing a ban on most car travel starting Friday afternoon, while Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state’s highways to all but emergency vehicles.

Hundreds of thousands of people lost power, with more than 200,000 reported outages in Massachusetts, more than 100,000 in Rhode Island, and 30,000 in Connecticut, according to local utilities.

Mass transit was also affected.

In New York City, transit officials said “suspensions in service remained a strong possibility,” and Metro-North Railroad suspended some of its commuter rail service at 10 p.m.

The Long Island Rail Road partially suspended service on its Montauk branch.

Some 3,500 flights were canceled on Friday and more than 1,200 flights scheduled for Saturday were scratched, according to the website FlightAware.com.

Early Friday evening, officials warned that the storm was just ramping up to full strength, and that heavy snow and high winds would continue through midday on Saturday. The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine declared states of emergency and urged people to stay indoors.

In many cases, authorities ordered non-essential government workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

People appeared to take the warnings seriously. Traffic on streets and ridership on public transportation was significantly lighter than usual on Friday.

Even so, the storm caused a few accidents, including a 19-vehicle pile-up outside Portland, Maine, that sent one person to the hospital.

The storm posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy last October. Many of the same communities that were inundated by Hurricane Sandy’s tidal surge just about 100 days ago are likely to see some moderate coastal flooding this evening.

Amtrak suspended railroad service between New York, Boston and points north on Friday afternoon.

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