Massive winter storm bringing snow, cold to huge swath of eastern United States

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A man shields himself from gusty winds as snow falls on him at the Cheesequake Service Station along the Garden State Parkway during a snowstorm on Thursday in South Amboy, N.J. The New Jersey Shore, which has been experiencing deep cold weather to start the new year, is under a winter storm advisory. | Julio Cortez/Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — A massive winter storm swept from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, dumping snow along the coast and bringing strong winds that will usher in possible record-breaking cold.

Up to 18 inches of snow was expected in eastern New England. Blizzard warnings and states of emergency were in effect, schools and government offices closed for the day and motorists were warned to be careful as conditions worsened.

People who take to the roads are in for an “ugly, long commute” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

GROUNDED: At least 250 flights canceled at O’Hare, Midway

Ankle-deep snow and wind gusts approaching 50 mph (80 kph) covered Maryland’s Ocean City Boardwalk, which was under a blizzard warning Thursday.

Eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island were bracing for as much as 18 inches of snow, with snow falling at a rate of 3 inches per hour possible.

Road salt is loaded into a truck surrounded by mountains of salt at Eastern Minerals Inc., Wednesday in the Boston suburb of Chelsea, Mass. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Thursday that extends from Block Island, R.I., north

Road salt is loaded into a truck surrounded by mountains of salt at Eastern Minerals Inc., Wednesday in the Boston suburb of Chelsea, Mass. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Thursday that extends from Block Island, R.I., north to coastal Maine. Most of the rest of southern New England is under a winter storm watch. | Bill Sikes/Associated Press

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said more than 100 warming centers have been opened in 34 towns across the state. Connecticut has 634 state plow trucks and 250 contractors working to clear the highways.

The massive storm began two days ago in the Gulf of Mexico, first hitting the Florida Panhandle. It has prompted thousands of canceled flights, shuttered schools and businesses and sparked fears of coastal flooding and power outages.

Wind gusts of 50 mph to 60 mph, strong enough to cause downed trees and power lines, are predicted in places where the National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings.

They include the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes parts of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland; coastal New Jersey; eastern Long Island, New York; and coastal eastern New England.

And in suburban St. Louis, even the water company is dealing with a burst pipe. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an Alton, Illinois, call center for American Water had to be evacuated Tuesday night after a pipe broke. Employees returned to work after the water to the pipe was shut off.

Snow covers the frozen water of Lake Smith in Virginia Beach, Va. on Wednesday. A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowf

Snow covers the frozen water of Lake Smith in Virginia Beach, Va. on Wednesday. A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowfall in nearly three decades.
| L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot, distributed by the Associated Press

The snowstorm shut down much of eastern Virginia, but some people were taking it in stride.

Mark Schoenenberger, 45, a NASA engineer who lives in Norfolk, Virginia, put on his cross country skis so he could make a half hour trip to the bagel shop for some breakfast for his family.

“It’s like ‘Yay, I get to go out,” he said.

The only concern he seemed to have was telecommuting while his kids were home from school. But “it’s just noise,” he said.

The storm will then be followed by a wave of bracing cold.

“We think there are going to be scattered records broken for low temperatures,” said Peterson, adding how the weather service expects 28 major cities across New England, eastern New York and the mid-Atlantic states will have record low temperatures by dawn on Sunday.

Commuters travel on the southbound side of the New Jersey Turnpike during a snowstorm Thursday, in Woodbridge, N.J. The New Jersey Shore, which has been experiencing deep cold weather to start the new year, is under a winter storm advisory. | Julio Cortez

Commuters travel on the southbound side of the New Jersey Turnpike during a snowstorm Thursday, in Woodbridge, N.J. The New Jersey Shore, which has been experiencing deep cold weather to start the new year, is under a winter storm advisory. | Julio Cortez/Associated Press

State and local officials urged residents to prepare for possible power losses and stay home so crews can clear streets and roads of what could be as much as foot or more of snow in some places. There were concerns in Boston and elsewhere that if roads aren’t properly cleared, they could freeze into cement-like icy messes by Friday, given the expected low temperatures. In other areas, plummeting temperatures already have caused water mains to burst.

The storm has resulted in thousands of canceled flights at major airports such as Boston’s Logan International Airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport and disrupted the schedules at regional airports.

Amtrak planned to operate a modified schedule between New York and Boston on Thursday. Northeast Regional Service between Washington, D.C., and Newport News/Norfolk, Virginia, was canceled for Thursday.

The coastal Southeast got a rare blast of snow and ice on Wednesday. Schools were shut down just months after hurricane threats. In Charleston, South Carolina, the weather service reported 5 inches of snow, enough for Chris Monoc’s sons, ages 4 and 2, to go sledding outside their home.

“They probably will be teenagers the next time something like this happens, and that’s kind of sad,” Monoc said. “But we’ll enjoy it while it’s here.”

Associated Press Writer Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.

Finley Bork, 7, uses a boogie board, typically used on the beach, for sledding down a hill on a golf course at the Isle of Palms, S.C., on Wednesday. A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting

Finley Bork, 7, uses a boogie board, typically used on the beach, for sledding down a hill on a golf course at the Isle of Palms, S.C., on Wednesday. A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowfall in nearly three decades. | Mic Smith/Associated Press

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