Whopping winter storm marching in Sandy's path

Friday, February 8, 2013 - 9:00am

Elizabeth Frazier grabbed the last bottles of water in sight, then left the store.

"It's a zoo in there," she said. "There's nothing left on the shelves," the Reading, Massachusetts, resident told CNN affiliate WHDH.

A gathering snowstorm is driving droves of New Englanders into shops to seize up the last supplies, then dash home to stock their cupboards, baton down the hatches and brace for a potentially long haul. Its icy rage will commence Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service predicts, and will last into Saturday.

In addition, it will produce high winds and stir up trouble at sea.

Snow could lock some residents indoors for days, as the forecast calls for a "potentially historic winter storm." It is on a trajectory reminiscent of the path Hurricane Sandy took, and is poised to deliver its harshest blows to regions that have already taken a lot of punishment.

Local politicians are taking to the stump to warn their citizenry to be prepared, and power companies and public works are shoring up their resources.

Transportation outlets were announcing shut downs in the air and on land ahead of its ominous arrival, and motorists are being warned not to drive.

Airlines have already cancelled more than 3,200 flights to and from affected regions. Amtrak canceled many trips in the Northeast corridor.

The blizzard is predicted to smother places, where the superstorm left behind the deepest scars -- from the New Jersey shoreline through the Boroughs of New York City and throughout Connecticut.

But forecasts call for the worst of the storm to extend into eastern Massachusetts and reach up the southern shoreline of New Hampshire.

Early Friday, Boston motorists stood in long lines to fill up their tanks at gas stations, and the city's public works filled trucks with sand to spread on roads and deployed snow plows to strategic points ahead of time.

"We are hardy New Englanders," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, "and used to these types of storms."

But Boston could see flakes falling at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour, and the storm has already drawn comparisons to the "Great Blizzard" of 1978, when thousands were stranded as fast-moving snow drifts blanketed highways and left several people dead.

Putting toughness aside, Menino told Bostonians to "use common sense" and "stay off the streets of our city." "Basically, stay home."

The most severe weather is expected to hit Massachusetts between 2 and 5 p.m. on Friday.

The rest of New England will see heavy snow into Saturday, the NWS said, which could also reach blizzard intensity in places, when a wet subtropical system rising from the Gulf Coast collides with a polar front rolling in from the Midwest to produce a whopping winter storm.

Residents from New Jersey to Maine will likely be digging themselves out of a foot or so of snow, the National Weather Service predicts.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the timing of the storm could actually benefit municipal workers.

"If it's going to happen, having it happen Friday overnight into Saturday is probably as good timing as we could have," Bloomberg said. "The sanitation department then has the advantage of being able to clean the streets when there's normally less traffic."

In shades of Sandy, gales will whip up waves along the Atlantic coast, triggering small craft advisories as far south as Georgia, but hurricane force winds are predicted to churn up off-shore maritime tempests -- particularly from New Jersey to Massachusetts -- with waves cresting at up to 30 feet at the height of the storm.

Coastal flooding is possible "from Boston northward," the weather service said.

Strong winds are expected to push up high snow banks. The combination of snow and gusts "as high as 60-75 mph will create significant impacts to transportation and power," the weather service said.

After Superstorm Sandy left much of Long Island without power for days, power company National Grid is working to prevent a second act to that tragedy.

It is adding hundred of extra crew members to over 500 lineman already on site for the Long Island Power Authority.

The storm could knock out power for over 100,000 customers on Long Island alone, National Grid said.

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CNN's David Ariosto, Steve Almasy and Marina Carver contributed to this report
 

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