PORTLAND, Maine — Schools were closed Wednesday morning as a winter storm was expected to bring seven to 10 inches of snow to the coast of Maine and six to nine inches inland.
The heaviest snow is forecast for Wednesday morning. See the latest forecast for your region here.
The National Weather Service said Tuesday that heavy snow and strong winds will create hazardous driving conditions with blowing and drifting snow expected.
A winter weather warning is in effect from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday.
The National Weather Service said the storm could bring up to 16 inches to southern New Hampshire, with snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches an hour possible.
New Hampshire lawmakers decided to take a snow day on Wednesday due to the storm.
Rhode Island emergency officials were preparing for accumulations ranging from 12 to 16 inches.
The weather service also issued a blizzard warning for the east coast of Massachusetts starting at 2 a.m. and lasting until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Twelve to 16 inches of snow were expected in the Boston and Plymouth county areas. Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard will accumulate 4 to 8 inches of snow. Winds could gust up to 65 mph.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino late Tuesday declared a snow emergency, which bans parking on all major streets and cancels public schools.
Widespread flight cancellations have moved from the South into the Northeast and Great Lakes ahead of the storm. More than 3,500 flights were scrubbed for Tuesday, and at least 1,000 more were expected to be canceled Wednesday from Atlanta to Chicago to Boston. At American Airlines, one type of flight was sacrosanct — international ones leaving out of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“We will do everything we can to launch and fly our international flights,” spokesman Tim Smith said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said crews would work even harder after criticism of how the city handled a storm just after Christmas, when hundreds of streets went unplowed, subway riders were stranded and medical calls unanswered because ambulances were unable to navigate snowy streets.
Snow started falling late Tuesday. By early Wednesday, 4.5 inches accumulated in Central Park, 3.7 inches at New Jersey’s Newark airport, and 5.3 inches in Stamford, Conn.
Forecasters expected New York City and its suburbs to get an average of about 9 inches and as much as 12 inches in some areas by the afternoon, with reduced visibility and wind gusts up to 35 mph. In New England, the National Weather Service predicted up to a foot across most of Connecticut and the Boston area.
Bloomberg, who was severely chastised by the public for the city’s woeful cleanup efforts following the Dec. 26 blizzard, warned residents Tuesday they likely would wake up to unplowed streets and face a rough morning commute because the latest snowstorm was expected to hit heaviest just before rush hour.
“It’s going to be a difficult, difficult rush hour,” Bloomberg said. “The storm is predicted to be at its heaviest just a few hours before rush hour, and there’s no way that our city’s plows can get to all 6,000 streets in one or two hours.”
The storm is the third to hit New York in less than three weeks, after the Dec. 26 blizzard dumped 29 inches of snow in parts of the city and last week’s threat turned into just a 2-inch dusting. It will be another test for Bloomberg and his commissioners, who have suffered endless criticism for the unplowed streets and uncollected garbage that sullied the city for days after the blizzard.
The city stood ready Wednesday with more than 300 salt spreaders, 1,700 plows, and 200 front-end loaders, backhoes and Bobcats. Sanitation workers were on 12-hour shifts.
In New Jersey, residents were bracing for at least 4 inches of snow throughout the state and up to a foot in parts. And they were keeping a close eye on Gov. Chris Christie, who left for a Disney World family vacation in Orlando, Fla., just before the Christmas blizzard struck the Northeast even though his lieutenant governor also was out of state.
Christie, who was heavily criticized for the trip, has said he and the lieutenant governor wouldn’t be out of state at the same time again and even joked last week about “shoveling myself” to dig people out of snow if necessary.
Pennsylvania transportation officials urged residents to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary. Reduced speed limits were in place on major highways in the east-central part of the state. As the storm approached Tuesday, the city of Philadelphia declared a snow emergency. City officials expected 4 to 8 inches.
Meteorologist Jim Hayes at the weather service office in Mount Holly, N.J., said the storm was just about over for the city and southeastern Pennsylvania by 3 a.m. Five inches had accumulated in Philadelphia.
Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, also declared a snow emergency. Only city and education board employees essential to storm operations were expected at work Wednesday.
Snow and ice shut down much of the South for two days. Road crews lacked winter equipment, salt and sand to clear the roads, and millions of people just stayed home. Mail delivery was restricted, and many schools and other institutions closed. The storm was blamed for 11 deaths and many more injuries.
Despite the inconvenience, Southerners confronted the aftermath with patience — and a certain amount of wonder.
The nation’s largest commuter railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, suspended service to prevent trains from becoming snowbound. No Tuesday overnight or Wednesday morning trains were running between Speonk and Montauk in Suffolk County, east of New York City.
Bloomberg said his city would decide at 5 a.m. whether to cancel school.
Some schools on Long Island already announced closures for Wednesday, but most appeared to be taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether students and teachers would be in class.