A powerful nor’easter storm swept up the US east coast on Saturday, bringing deep snow and wind gusts near hurricane force, causing coastal flooding and threatening widespread power outages. Forecasters warned conditions would worsen as the day went on.

Parts of 10 states and major population centers including Philadelphia, New York and Boston took heavy hits. By late morning, more than a foot of snow had fallen on parts of New Jersey and eastern Long Island.

Boston was forecast to get as much as 2ft of snow while isolated pockets nearby could get as much as 3ft. Winds gusted as high as 70mph on Nantucket off the Massachusetts coast and over 60mph elsewhere in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses lost power in Massachusetts, with failures mounting. No other states reported widespread outages.

Airlines canceled more than 4,500 flights at some of the busiest US airports, according to FlightAware. Amtrak suspended or limited service on the Boston-to-Washington corridor.

Officials from Virginia to Maine warned people to stay off the roads amid potential whiteout conditions. In West Hartford, Connecticut, a tractor-trailer jackknifed on Interstate 84, closing several westbound lanes. Rhode Island, all of which was under a blizzard warning, banned all non-emergency road travel starting at 8am.

“This is serious. We’re ready for this storm, and we also need Rhode Islanders to be ready,” Governor Dan McKee said. “The best way to handle this storm is to stay home tomorrow.”

A lone ambulance travels on an empty Interstate 195 in Providence, Rhode Island.
A lone ambulance travels on an empty Interstate 195 in Providence, Rhode Island. Photograph: David Goldman/AP

Delaware allowed only essential personnel to drive in two of its three counties starting on Friday night. Massachusetts banned heavy trucks from interstate highways for most of Saturday.

In suburban Boston, a bundled-up Nicky Brown, 34, stood at the doors of Gordon’s liquor store in Waltham, waiting for it to open.

“My boyfriend is out driving a plow and I had a bunch of cleaning to do at home, and I want a drink while I’m doing it,” she said. “It’s a good day to stay inside and clean.”

In the seaside town of Newburyport, north of Boston near the New Hampshire border, officials strongly encouraged residents along the shore to move to higher ground.

Video on social media showed wind and waves battering North Weymouth, south of Boston, flooding streets with a slurry of frigid water. Other video showed a street underwater on Nantucket.

Amid a rush to stock up on supplies, the New England supermarket giant Stop & Shop asked customers to show restraint.

“We ask shoppers to buy what they need and save some for their neighbors,” the chain said in a statement.

Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Areas closest to the coast were expected to bear the brunt of the storm, which could bring wind gusts as high as 70mph in New England.

Coastal New Jersey was forecast to get as much as 18in of snow and eastern Long Island up to 17in. Philadelphia, New York City and parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia could get 10in or more.

The storm hits Norfolk, Virginia.
The storm hits Norfolk, Virginia. Photograph: Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Virginia, where a blizzard this month stranded hundreds of motorists for hours on Interstate 95, did not hesitate to get resources at the ready. In Maryland, the governor mobilized the national guard.

Washington and Baltimore were spared the worst of the storm.

The worst of the storm was expected to blow by Sunday morning into Canada, where several provinces were under warnings.

One saving grace, at least in parts of Massachusetts: the snow should fall light and flaky because it is coming with cold weather that dries it out, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for the commercial firm Atmospheric Environmental Research.

That means lousy snowballs and snow less capable of snapping tree branches and tearing down power lines.

Source: The Guardian