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North east painted white

A man shovels snow from the front of his house in Winthrop, Massachusetts today.

A man shovels snow from the front of his house in Winthrop, Massachusetts today.

BOSTON – A major snowstorm has brought swathes of the north-eastern US and eastern Canada to a standstill, leaving about half a million homes without power.

High winds and blizzard conditions have emptied the centre of Boston and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has banned all non-essential traffic.

Millions of people across New England have being warned to stay indoors. The region’s airports are closed.

Many areas are under two feet of snow and more snowfalls are expected.

Blizzard warnings are in effect for much of the coastal section of the north-eastern US, from Newark, New Jersey to southern Maine.

Forecasters said the storm, which began yesterday, could dump as much as three feet in some places.

People have been warned to stock up on food and other supplies as the storm affects 25 million people in the region.

More than 600,000 homes and businesses are without power in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Boston’s Financial District was deserted early today – as were many streets across the region.

“This is a storm of major proportions,” warned Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. “Stay off the roads. Stay home.”

Snow piled up so high in places that many residents found they could not open their doors to leave their homes today, the Associated Press reported.

The town of Gorham, Maine, was buried under more than 31 inches of snow. Town council chairman Philip Gagnon told Reuters news agency that many roads would not be cleared until tomorrow or Monday.

“It’s going to probably take some time because they can only do so much before we can rest them,” he said.

In Manhattan in New York, normally bustling streets were quiet today – apart from snow blowers. (BBC)

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