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Blizzard heading for northeast

Winter storms are seen over the northeastern United States in this GOES satellite image courtesy of NOAA.

Winter storms are seen over the northeastern United States in this GOES satellite image courtesy of NOAA.

NEW YORK CITY – The northeastern United States braced for a possibly historic blizzard that could drop up to three feet (nearly one meter) of snow from today to Saturday and bring travel to a halt.

Blizzard warnings were in effect from New Jersey through southern Maine, with Boston expected to bear the brunt of the storm. The day began with light snow and winds that were due to pick up with much heavier snowfall by afternoon.

Officials urged residents to stay home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions.

In New York City, still not fully recovered from the effects of October’s devastating Hurricane Sandy, officials said they had 1,800 Sanitation Department trucks equipped with snow plows ready to be deployed.

Motorists, mindful of the severe fuel disruptions after Sandy, rushed to buy gasoline, leading to shortages in New York City. A Reuters photographer reported at least three service stations had run out of gas in the borough of Queens on Friday morning, with long lines formed at others.

Sandy knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, taking gasoline stations out of service, and damaged port facilities, exacerbating the shortages by preventing operable stations from refueling.

“You always get long lines ahead of a storm, but as the wounds from Hurricane Sandy are still so fresh, it’s not surprising that people are rushing to fill up,” said Michael Watt, executive director of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association. “It’s understandable. Even people like me who would normally think it was foolish to panic buy will be thinking about it.”

Boston and surrounding communities said schools would be closed on Friday, and city and state officials told nonessential city workers to stay home.

Officials across the region ordered nonessential government workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, and told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

In New Jersey, also hit hard by Sandy, state officials expected major coastal flooding, high winds, and possible blizzard conditions in the northeastern section of the state. (Reuters)

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