Northeast blizzard: Snowstorm hits New York City, Boston

NEW YORK - A massive storm packing hurricane-force winds and blizzard conditions is sweeping through the Northeast, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow on New England and knocking out power to more than a half a million customers.

More than 23 inches of snow had fallen in parts of central Connecticut by early Saturday, and more than 21 inches covered Randolph in southeastern Massachusetts.

The National Weather Service says up to 3 feet of snow is expected in Boston, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches.

Throughout the Northeast, more than 600,000 homes and businesses lost electricity. Airlines canceled more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed.

The storm is being blamed on at least four deaths in New York and Canada. For many in the Northeast, the warnings were eerily familiar: Stock up on food and water. Stay off the roads. Be prepared to lose power.

The snowstorm sweeping through the region brought with it echoes of Superstorm Sandy, if not in intensity, in the dread of residents waiting to see what a new storm would bring.

The snowy, windy system that bore down on the Northeast on Friday was expected to drop 8 to 16 inches on the areas hardest hit by Sandy, a swath including New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and Connecticut.

A moderate storm surge was possible, too -- but nothing like the waves that drowned much of the region in late October. Still, the prospect frightened Eddie Malone, a resident of Lindenhurst on Long Island whose house has been under renovation since Sandy's flooding wiped out his first floor.

"I'm not afraid of the snow -- instead, the sea surge, it may be 7 feet," Malone said. "I think Sandy was 12 or 13 feet, but 7 feet scares me. ... We had no power for two weeks, and now I'm afraid we are going to lose it again."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to reassure folks, saying nothing like Sandy's surge was expected and stressing that no evacuations were being ordered, as they were before the superstorm.

"Sandy was a big storm that was devastating to a lot of people," he said. "I don't think this storm is going to do that."

In Fairfield, Conn., 65-year-old teacher Kathy Niznansky braced for potential flooding just about a month after she was able to return to her house near the beach. She worried about her sump pump failing if she loses power around high tide.

"If we have another one, sometimes I think maybe you should move," she said. "I think if I got water in my house from this storm, I think it would really do me in."

Hemlock Hardware in Fairfield did a brisk business on shovels, batteries, firewood, salt, sand and sleds. The store was getting a lot of calls for generators, too.

"There's definitely a change in response to storms now," said owner Scott Pesavento. "Power outages, I guess, is the first concern now when they hear `storm."'

Al Terrile, a 69-year-old retired Southport resident, stocked up on batteries, a box of firewood and a light at the hardware store. He lost power for four days during Sandy.

"Maybe nothing will happen but just in case," he said. "It seems like our electrical system has suddenly turned fragile."

At the Jersey shore, where waves of 12 feet and moderate flooding were possible, Brick Township and Toms River issued voluntary evacuation orders for areas still recovering from Sandy.

"We're telling people, if they can, find shelter elsewhere," said Edward Moroney, a Brick Township spokesman.

In New York City's Staten Island, at a tent shelter set up for superstorm victims still living without power, volunteers used tarps and a makeshift drain to keep the bad weather out. Manager Donna Graziano said she feared the new storm would keep her regulars away.

"A lot of residents don't have the means to cook anything," she said. "I'm sure for tonight they'll make arrangements, but it's heartbreaking to me because I hear their cries every day. I give them their hugs."

Douglas Beman, 30, of Greenburgh in the northern New York suburbs, was thinking of Sandy -- and the long gas lines that followed it -- as he filled his Chevy Tahoe and a 5-gallon gas can at a Mobil station.

"Sandy taught me this lesson: Stock up on gasoline," he said.

In coastal areas of Queens and Long Island, not nearly recovered yet from Sandy, memories were easily stirred.

"A little snow doesn't scare me," said Leeann Rivera, 43, stocking up at the only major grocery store still open in the Sandy-ravaged Far Rockaway section of Queens. "But if we were talking about the type of damage that Sandy did, I'd be gone. I would leave New York right now."

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Contributing to this report were Cara Matthews and Jay Lindsay, Associated Press; Alison Barnwell and Sophia Hall on Long Island, Associated Press videojournalist Bonny Ghosh in New York and AP writer John Christoffersen

in Fairfield, Conn.

 

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