BOSTON — A nor’easter with gale-force gusts battered much of the east coast on Saturday, hurling heavy snow that made travel treacherous or impossible, flooding coasts and threatening to leave bitter cold behind.
The storm devastated parts of 10 states, with snowstorm warnings stretching from Virginia to Maine. Philadelphia and New York saw a lot of wind and snow, but Boston was in the crosshairs. The city could get more than 24 inches of snow by early Sunday’s move.
Winds of up to 134 km/h were blowing on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. More than 22 inches (45 centimeters) of snow had fallen on part of New York’s Long Island in the afternoon, while Bayville, New Jersey, had 19 inches (48 centimeters).
In some places the wind swept the ground bare and in others it piled the snow into huge drifts.
Meteorologists were on the lookout for new snowfall records, particularly in Boston, where the heaviest snow was expected later on Saturday. The Boston area’s modern snowfall record is 27.6 inches (70 centimeters), set in 2003.
New York City and Philadelphia were far from setting all-time records, but still saw significant snowfall of at least 19 centimeters in New York’s Central Park and at Philadelphia Airport.
Many flights at airports serving New York, Boston and Philadelphia were canceled on Saturday, according to FlightAware. More than 4,500 flights have been canceled across the US, although Northeast airports reported no evidence of mass stranding as the storm was expected and many airlines canceled flights in advance.
Amtrak canceled all of its Acela bullet trains on the busy Boston-DC corridor and canceled or curtailed other services.
In Boston, Dominic Torre has been driving his snow dump truck since the storm began overnight, collecting heaps of plowed snow from the streets and dumping it in unused parking lots known as “snow farms.” It was time for such a big storm, he said.
“You know, we were overdue,” he said. “It’s pretty hairy, you know, lots of snow. Lots of snow, lots of travel, lots of burdens. And it’s not over yet. It’s not finished yet.”
Videos on social media showed wind and waves battering North Weymouth, south of Boston, inundating streets with a slurry of cold water. Other videos showed a street underwater in Nantucket and waves crashing against the windows of a building in Plymouth.
More than 120,000 homes and businesses lost power in Massachusetts, and the outages were piling up. No other states reported widespread outages.
Climate change, particularly warming of the ocean, likely influenced the storm’s strength, atmospheric researchers said.
Much warmer ocean water “certainly plays a role in strengthening the storm system and increasing the moisture available to the storm,” said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. “But it’s not the only thing.”
The storm had two saving graces: dry snow that was less able to snap trees and down power lines, and its timing on a weekend when schools were closed and few people were commuting.
Portions of 10 states were under blizzard warnings at one point: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, along with much of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The National Weather Service considers a storm a blizzard when there is snowfall or blowing snow and winds of at least 35 mph (56 km/h) that reduce visibility to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours. In many areas, Saturday’s storm met those criteria.
Rhode Island, which was under a snow storm warning, banned all non-emergency road travel.
In West Hartford, Connecticut, a trailer truck buckled on Interstate 84, blocking several lanes. Massachusetts banned heavy trucks from freeways.
Ocean City, Maryland recorded at least 30 centimeters of snow. The Maryland State Police tweeted that as of midmorning, soldiers had received more than 670 911 calls and responded to more than 90 accidents.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul advised people to stay home and warned of sub-zero wind chills after the storm passed. The state declared a state of emergency on Friday evening.
“This is a very serious storm, very serious. We have prepared for this. It could be life-threatening,” Hochul said. “It’s high winds, heavy snowfall, blizzards – all elements of a classic Nor’easter.”
Long Island police said they had to help motorists stuck in snow, and an elderly man died shoveling snow after falling into a swimming pool. In Philadelphia, few drivers ventured onto roads covered in knee-high drifts.
Hardy New Englanders took the storm in stride.
Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray jokingly invited the public to his home in suburban Boston on Saturday for a free snow shovel clinic.
“I will provide the driveway and several walkways to ensure your training is conducted in the most lifelike situation possible,” he said.
Washington and Baltimore got some snow but were largely spared. The worst of the northeast winds were expected to sweep across Canada on Sunday morning, where several provinces have been warned.
Catalini reported from Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Working on this report were Associated Press journalists Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; David Collins of Hartford, Connecticut; Jeff McMillan of Scranton, Pennsylvania; Seth Borenstein of Kensington, Maryland; and Ron Todt in Philadelphia.