Millions remain under blizzard warnings as nor’easter pummels the Northeast

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CNN  — 

Much of the East Coast was covered with a thick blanket of snow Saturday night, with several areas reporting record snowfall totals, and officials across the region urged residents to stay put as the fierce nor’easter made its way through the country’s northeastern tip.

Across the Northeast, roughly 16 million people were under some type of winter weather alert Saturday night. Of those, seven million were under blizzard warnings.

Blizzard warnings are expected to remain in effect through Sunday morning for eastern Massachusetts and most of Maine.

A blizzard, by the National Weather Service’s definition, requires blowing or falling snow, winds of at least 35 miles per hour, and visibility of a quarter-mile or less for at least three hours.

Blizzard conditions are possible into early Sunday from eastern Massachusetts to eastern Maine, the National Weather Service said. Much of the Northeast can expect “dangerous” wind chills, some dipping below zero, Sunday morning as the storm makes its way out, the service said.

Light to moderate snowfall will continue into the evening, with snow expected to end in the eastern part of Massachusetts by 11 p.m., the governor’s office said.

Parts of eastern Massachusetts, Long Island and Rhode Island saw more than two feet of snow and blizzard conditions, and a few areas in Massachusetts saw hurricane-force wind gusts, with Cape Cod getting the strongest gales.

The town of Sharon, Massachusetts, recorded a staggering 30.4 inches of snowfall by Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Boston’s Logan Airport had recorded at least 23.3 inches of snow by Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service, making Saturday the snowiest January day Boston has recorded. The previous record was set on January 27, 2015, when the city received 22.1 inches of snow.

Boston could also soon beat its all-time one-day snowfall record of 23.6 inches, which was set on February 17, 2003.

“This is coming down hard and fast, and so it’s been historic,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu told CNN Saturday evening.

brian todd update snow storm
CNN reporter shows what storm is like in one of the worst hit areas
02:22 - Source: CNN

Strong winds pushed seawater ashore in parts of coastal Massachusetts and elsewhere earlier in the day, causing some street flooding.

Some governments in the Northeast banned vehicle travel for parts of the day, including Rhode Island through midnight, with a tractor-trailer ban in place until midnight.

“Hunker down for 24 hours, and sometime tomorrow, you’ll be able to go back out and resume some of your normal activities,” Tom Guthlein, Rhode Island’s acting director of emergency management, said early Saturday.

Some areas crush snowfall records

In New Jersey’s Atlantic City, howling wind whipped snow sideways earlier Saturday, and a CNN crew there could barely see anything a block away. The city crushed its all-time January snowfall record by Saturday, reaching a staggering monthly total of 33.2 inches of snow. It had received about 19.2 inches prior to the storm and added another 14 inches Saturday, CNN meteorologist Gene Norman said Saturday afternoon. The prior monthly record of 20.3 inches was set in January 1987.

The city’s 14 inches of snow Saturday also beat its previous record for the calendar date, which was set in 2014 at 7.3 inches.

As the storm pummeled through, several other areas crushed previous January 29 snowfall records, including New York’s Central Park, which recorded 7.3 inches, beating the previous record of 4.7 inches set in 1904, and Philadelphia, which saw 5.8 inches of snow Saturday, beating the previous record of 5 inches, also set in 1904.

Up to 2 feet of snow could fall by Sunday morning from Long Island through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, CNN forecasters said.

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The storm became a “bomb cyclone” Saturday morning, meaning the storm strengthened rapidly and had the barometric pressure drop more than 24 millibars within 24 hours, the Weather Prediction Center said.

More than 3,580 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled Saturday, according to FlightAware, and more than a thousand are already canceled for Sunday.

Major airlines offered waivers to passengers impacted by the storm, including Delta, which offered travel waivers to passengers planning to fly out of 28 airports across the East Coast this weekend and United, which said it will waive change fees and any difference in fare for flights departing on or before February 2, involving 26 locations along the coast.

American Airlines and Southwest also announced options for passengers whose plans were spoiled by the severe weather conditions.

Power outages in Massachusetts, with street flooding along coasts

In some parts of the East Coast, strong winds led to power outages.

More than 88,000 customers in Massachusetts were without power as of 8:36 p.m. Saturday, according to PowerOutage.us.

With winds pushing seawater ashore, some streets flooded in Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday morning, CNN affiliate WCVB reported.

On Nantucket, floodwater covered Easy Street and lapped up against some homes Saturday morning, video recorded by Blair Perkins showed.

High winds and snow pushed over several trees across the island while some areas were out of power because of downed wires, Nantucket Fire Chief Stephen Murphy told CNN on Saturday afternoon. Several roadways were also closed because of flooding, the chief said.

“We do have coastal flooding when we get these kinds of storms, but today was pretty intense,” Jason Graziadei, an editor at the local newsletter Nantucket Current, told CNN on Saturday afternoon. “People (are) kind of just hunkering down out here.”

Scituate, a coastal Massachusetts town southeast of Boston, had some mild to moderate flooding at high tide Saturday morning, with water splashing over seawalls, town administrator Jim Boudreau told CNN.

High winds reached more than 70 mph, Boudreau said Saturday afternoon.

“When you have wind like that with the snow, the snow is almost like needles coming down hitting people,” he said. “Visibility has been near zero, we’re plowing the roads as quickly as we can, as fast as we get the snow off the roads the wind is blowing it back in.”

In Marshfield, another coastal Massachusetts town, about 4 feet of water came over the seawall at high tide, town administrator Michael A. Maresco told CNN.

More coastal flooding is possible, forecasters warned. Parts of Massachusetts and Long Island were under coastal flood advisories.

In Quincy, a city just south of Boston, the mayor warned people to stay indoors, saying even snowplow operators wouldn’t be able to drive when the snowfall is heaviest.

“There’s no way plows are going to operate when they can’t see in front of their face,” Mayor Thomas Koch told CNN Saturday. “Even after the storm is done, we’ll be plowing for many hours afterward, to keep up with the wind blowing it.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation issued a travel ban for large trucks on interstate highways for Saturday because of the severe winter weather forecast.

The travel ban took effect Saturday morning and will go through midnight for tractor trailer trucks, tandems and special permit haulers,” MassDOT said.

Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm and told CNN Saturday afternoon the state is expecting to record some of its highest snow accumulation totals through the storm.

The blizzard-like conditions led Amtrak to cancel train service on Saturday for various lines, including Acela service between Washington, DC, and Boston as well as regional service between Boston and New York, the company said Friday.

Snow piles up fast on Long Island and in New Jersey

The governors of New York and New Jersey also declared states of emergency.

As a precaution, all Long Island Rail Road service was suspended Saturday morning, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

Snow was accumulating fast Saturday on Long Island. More than 24 inches were reported near Long Island MacArthur Airport by Saturday night.

Blaine Webb helps a SEPTA employee shovel out a bus from the snow March 14, 2017 in Spring City, Pennsylvania.
How strong a blizzard's impact may be
01:20 - Source: CNN

Snowplow crews will work throughout Saturday night in Suffolk County on Long Island, but freezing temperatures and lingering snowfall will complicate efforts to clear the roads into Sunday, County Executive Steve Bellone said.

In Nassau County, where officials said snowfall totals ranged from 10 to 18 inches, County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Saturday strong wind gusts were expected later in the evening, and urged residents to stay home.

“Snow is dangerous, but wind is more dangerous,” Blakeman said, adding there had been more than 50 car accidents by Saturday morning but roads later in the day remained virtually empty besides snowplows.

“If everybody stays off the roads, lets our workers do their job, by noon tomorrow I think we’ll have this under control, and I think the roads will be a lot safer,” he said.

In New Jersey, the Jersey Shore was “getting clobbered,” Gov. Phil Murphy said late Saturday morning. About 21 inches were reported in coastal Bayville by Saturday night.

He asked residents to be patient and stay off covered roads.

“It’ll take us a few days to dig out of this one, and that’s probably what’s the realistic scenario,” Murphy said.

A man walks on a snow-covered street in Boston on Saturday morning.

Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and elsewhere

The governors of Maryland and Virginia issued states of emergency in their states.

By Saturday evening, parts of coastal Virginia received at least nine inches, and coastal parts of Maryland and Delaware received more than 12 inches.

Parts of interior North Carolina and South Carolina got more than 2 inches of snow, with higher amounts in North Carolina’s mountains.

Portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia also have received more than 4 inches of snow.

CNN’s Brynn Gingras, Brian Todd, Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, Tyler Mauldin, David Williams, Haley Brink and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.