Residents in Northeast Hunker Down for ‘Historic’ Storm

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Manhattan is a ghost town. The Boston Common is buried in white. The New England coastline is being whipped by near hurricane-force winds and waves.

Welcome to the blizzard of 2015.

“We’re hunkered down with food shelter and water,” said Rafi Menachem, a financial consultant who lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, near Boston. “I’m worried about electricity.”

Menachem’s wife is a doctor at Boston Medical Center. She’s sleeping at work and won’t be back home until Wednesday, maybe later.

Even weather-toughened New Englanders are paying attention to this storm. You almost have to when the National Weather Service is throwing out terms like “crippling” and “potentially historic” when talking about this storm.

Just a bit to the south, New York City looked nothing like its normal bustling self early Tuesday. Schools are closed, and city officials shut down public transit.

It cleared the roads and let snow plows do their jobs.

THE FORECAST

Snow is falling 2 to 4 inches and hour at times and is especially heavy along the coast.

Blizzard warnings are in place from New Jersey to Maine. Boston is forecast to receive 20 to 30 inches of snow, and in some cases a bit more.

Up to 58 million people could be put into the deep freeze. And the storm could have a far-reaching economic and political impact, even beyond the region directly hit.

States of emergency are in place in seven states across the region — Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

THE IMPACT

Flying into and out of the Northeast is a non-starter.

More than 4,300 flights have been canceled for Tuesday, the flight-tracking website Flightaware.com said. That’s on top of 2,800 scrubbed on Monday. Hundreds more have already been canceled for Wednesday.

The hardest hit airports were in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Boston’s Logan Airport won’t reopen until Wednesday.

The major U.S. airlines are offering fee-free rebooking of flights to and from the Northeast through Tuesday.

For some travelers, it was touch and go. Ricardo Canadinhas looked through an ice-coated window on his Virgin Atlantic flight before takeoff. He could barely see. “#isthissafe,” he tweeted.

Amtrak said it was suspending Northeast Regional and Acela Express service between New York and Boston for Tuesday because of severe weather.

Other Amtrak train routes in the region will operate at reduced frequencies, the rail line said.

THE ROADS

“It is no joke to have people stranded on a highway. We’ve gone through that before,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Monday. “It is frightening how quickly a simple trip to the supermarket can wind up being very dangerous.”

Connecticut and Massachusetts also put travel bans in place. Violating the ban can set you back $500 in Massachusetts.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter declared a snow emergency. Cars left parked on snow emergency routes will be towed and owners ticketed, he said.

“It’s going to be the kind of night where the best thing anybody can do is stay inside,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday evening.

THE REACTION

The storm warnings seemed to impress even the most-jaded Northeasterner.

Groceries flew off store shelves from Brooklyn to Bangor.

Michelle Thompson, a professor who lives in New York, found little left at a Greenwich Village grocery store.

“These are the sorts of supplies New Yorkers need,” she said gazing at the empty shelves. “Apparently, fresh bread is imperative as well eggs. Don’t forget the dried pasta and sauce!”

It was the same story at the Star Market Menachem shops at in Boston.

“A majority of the produce, deli, meats, eggs, milk and bread were all gone,” he said.

THE RESPONSE

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said his force was well-prepared with a fleet of vehicles equipped with tire chains and more large SUVs capable of traversing snowy streets.

“I want everyone to understand that we are facing — most likely — one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

That’s saying something. In 2006, 26.9 inches of snow fell on the city.

New York state has at least 1,806 plows and more than 126,000 tons of salt to spray onto roads across the region.

The National Guard also was positioning six dozen personnel and 20 vehicles throughout the state.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said there was no doubt the city would be slammed.

The city has 700 pieces of snow-moving equipment and 35,000 tons of salt ready, he said.

A storm like this means something different to school kids. For them, it’s a snow day.

Classes have been called off in hundreds of schools districts, including New York City, Boston and Philadelphia.

THE WAIT

Despite facing a storm of epic proportions, let’s face it, the Northeast knows all about snow.

A little bit of white stuff isn’t going to spoil things.

In Times Square, a few brave souls were still slipping and sliding through the slush to snap a selfie or two.

Steve Nogueira, a retired meteorologist who lives in Taunton, Massachusetts, south of Boston, said the storm’s impressive, but he and his wife are ready for it.

“It’s pretty wild out here right now, blowing and drifting,” he said. “We’re pretty used to it. We have food, milk and beer … We also have a gas stove, so if we lose power we can still cook.”

“We’ll get through it. We’re New Englanders. We’ve done it before.”

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