WASHINGTON, February 8 (RIA Novosti) –The US Northeast is bracing for a massive blizzard expected to blast several states Friday evening, with thousands of flights already grounded and millions of people scrambling to stock up on food, water and supplies to last through the weekend.
“[It] could definitely be a historic winter storm for the Northeast,” Adrienne Leptich of the US National Weather Service told ABC News. “We’re looking at very strong wind and heavy snow and we’re also looking for some coastal flooding.”
The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut declared states of emergency Friday in preparation for the winter storm, which meteorologists say could be the most powerful blizzard to hit parts of the region in a century.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick went as far as to ban all traffic from the state’s roads as of 4 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday, with the exception of emergency and other vehicles vital to public safety and infrastructure.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned residents to stay indoors.
“Cook a meal, stay home, read a good book, watch a movie, just take it easy,” Bloomberg told a news conference Friday. “What would be great is if you left work early today, got home, parked your car in a legal parking place, and if you have to go around use mass transit.”
Airlines had grounded more than 4,000 flights ahead of the storm as of Friday, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. Cancellations hit major airports in cities throughout the region, including New York City, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia.
The snow began falling on Friday and is expected to cover some areas in a white blanket up to three feet (91 centimeters) deep.
News media across the US Northeast reported frantic scenes from grocery stores as residents scrambled to buy food, water and supplies for the weekend.
In the town of Salem, Massachusetts, the local fire department was called to a grocery store because of overcrowding as shoppers snapped up supplies, ABC News reported.
The blizzard has been dubbed “Nemo” by The Weather Channel, and media and social networking sites have widely used that name as well to refer to the storm. Even Bloomberg referred to the storm as “Nemo” on his Twitter feed.
The National Weather Service noted, however, that it does not formally give names to winter storms.
"We never have, nor do we have any plans to consider naming winter storms,” the New York Times website cited a spokesman for the agency as saying Friday.
The blizzard comes as the region continues to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the East Coast in October.
The hurricane resulted in 191 fatalities and caused damage estimated at some $50 billion, with New York and New Jersey suffering the brunt of the storm.