BOSTON (AP) — People in the Northeast stocked up on food and supplies and road crews readied salt and sand Thursday as the region braced for a major winter storm that could bring up to 2 feet of snow to places that haven't seen significant accumulations in more than a year.
The National Weather Service said most of southern New England could see anywhere from 18-24 inches between Friday and Saturday, and some other forecasts cautioned that totals could be even higher. Suffolk County in New York was under a blizzard watch, as were parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
New York City was expecting between 4 and 6 inches of snow. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby to start clearing the streets.
"We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," he said, adding that if bad weather has to happen, it's better to have it on a weekend.
Meteorologist William Babcock with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., says it's looking like it is going to be a very powerful storm. If everything falls the way it has the potential to it could be among the top 10 snowstorms in New England history.
The storm would hit just after the 35th anniversary of the historic blizzard of 1978, which paralyzed the region with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane force winds from Feb. 5-7. The last major snowstorm in southern New England was the Halloween storm in 2011, which knocked out power to many with heavy, wet snow.
The snow will start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts dumped on the region that night and into Saturday.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick was receiving regular updates but had not made any decisions about the state's workforce, a spokeswoman said.
The prospective timing has drawn comparisons with a powerful storm that hit in the afternoon of December 13th, 2007, and paralyzed state highways, turning 30-minute commutes into 3- to 6-hour treks.
On that day, Patrick advised state employees to leave work no later than 11:30 a.m., and private businesses were encouraged to dismiss their employees early as well. Many people, however, apparently waited longer to get on the road and by then, snow was falling at a rate of 1 1/2 inches an hour with virtual white-out conditions. The resulting traffic gridlock made it impossible for plows to clear the roads.
One place people were excited about the snow was at ski resorts in northern New England. Because they can make their own snow, they aren't as dependent on natural snowfall, but when it snows a lot in southern New England people start thinking more about winter sports, said spokesman Dave Meeker of Mount Snow in Vermont.
"When they have snow in their backyards, they're inspired," he said.
At the Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme, N.H., Dartmouth College senior Evan Diamond and other members of the school's ski team were getting ready for the college's Winter Carnival, which includes ski races.
"We're pretty excited about it because this has been an unusual winter for us," he said. "We've been going back and forth between having really solid cold snaps and then the rain washing everything away."
As much as he welcomes the snow, it could be too much of a good thing, at least for this weekend, "For skiing we like to have a nice hard surface, so it will be kind of tough to get the hill ready."
Ramer reported from Lyme, N.H. Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.