First blizzard warnings in 4 years in effect as East Coast braces for powerful nor'easter

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An excavator piles road salt in preparation for Winter Storm Kenan at the Boston Public Works Department yard on January 28, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.Scott Eisen | Getty Images

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The East Coast will be hit by a major snowstorm and potential blizzard beginning Friday night that could bring as much as 2 feet of snow to New England and disrupt cities stretching from Virginia to Maine.

About 65 million people were under winter alerts as of sunrise Friday, stretching from South Carolina to New England. These included blizzard warnings in a nearly continuous stretch from Virginia to Maine. These are the first blizzard warnings most of the East Coast has seen in four years.

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The latest projections come as major forecast models finally came into better agreement early Friday, predicting a storm track closer to the coast resulting in increased snowfall forecasts for all locations from Washington to Boston.

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On Friday, a cold front is expected to bring light to moderate snow to portions of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. This snow is not associated with the nor'easter.

By Friday night, the snow associated with the intensifying coastal storm was expected to begin along coastal areas in the mid-Atlantic and spread north, increasing in coverage and intensity. Winds will also increase as will the risk for coastal flooding.

Saturday continues to be the highest impact day from New York to Boston with the heaviest snow coinciding with the strongest winds, gusting up to hurricane force at times. Snow will end by midday for New York and during the evening hours for Boston.

By Sunday, all snow will be off the Maine coast by midmorning but gusty winds could cause blowing snow throughout the day.

People push carts full of groceries out of a supermarket as they prepare for the oncoming noreaster storm in Lynn, Massachusetts on January 28, 2022.Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

As of Friday afternoon, more than 3,000 flights within, to or out of the United States had been canceled for Saturday, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware, with major East Coast cities seeing the most cancellations. Boston's Logan International Airport had more than 300 cancellations, while New York City airports John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia had 360 and 260 cancellations, respectively. New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport had more than 290 cancellations.

The highest snow totals will be across extreme eastern Long Island, eastern Massachusetts and coastal Maine. Southeast Massachusetts, especially, is where up to 2 to 3 feet of snow could fall. This is also where the strongest winds will be and where power outages will be most likely.

Washington will see light snow starting Friday night and a total of 1 to 3 inches is expected. Philadelphia will likely see a little more with 4 to 8 inches of snow expected. New York could see as much as a foot, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. Boston will be the heaviest hit city on the East Coast with between 18 and 24 inches of snow expected.

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency across New Jersey beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.

The anticipated storm is forecast “to bring heavy snowfall and high wind gusts statewide, with blizzard conditions in some areas of New Jersey,” he said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Residents should take extreme caution, stay off the roads, remain vigilant, and follow all safety protocols.” 

A woman inspects a snow shovel at Woodside Ace Hardware in Winthrop, Massachusetts on January 28, 2022 as people prepare for the oncoming nor'easter storm.Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

Officials also said in the statement that the storm has the potential to cause a “significant number of power outages” due to the substantial snow and the high winds that were forecast.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the storm “deadly serious” at a news conference Friday afternoon and urged people to stay indoors. Hochul, who declared a state of emergency effective 8 p.m. Friday, asked New Yorkers to get through their workday on Friday and make the necessary preparations ahead of the worsening conditions, warning that “the best way to handle this is stay home.”

In North Carolina, which is recovering from two recent winter storms, Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday told residents to “please stay put” if they live in areas where it will be dangerous to go outside Saturday morning.

In addition to the nor'easter, the dangerous cold gripping much of the East, including all the way down to South Florida, will also be a major weather story this weekend.

The next arctic blast will affect the Midwest, the Northeast and the Southeast beginning Friday and lasting through Saturday, with high temperatures forecast to be 10 to 20 degrees below average.

By Sunday, the cold air will spill all the way to South Florida where cities such as Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami could experience their coldest temperatures in years.

With Miami's low forecast to drop into the upper 30s Sunday morning, that will be the coldest temperature it has experienced since December 2010.

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