NEW YORK - The US Northeast was hunkered down Saturday as a massive blizzard pummeled the region, snarling road and air traffic, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and contributing to at least four deaths.
Boston, which bore the brunt of the storm, could see more than 36 inches once the system moves out. Snowfall reached 34 inches in New Haven, Connecticut, with more expected. More than two feet were reported in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and on Long Island. New York City got about 12 inches in most places.
Airlines cancelled more than 5,300 flights through Saturday. Boston’s Logan Airport remains closed and New York City’s three major airports were also shut down temporarily but could reopen by later Saturday.
At least four people have died, including a man in his seventies who was killed when a driver lost control of her car, striking him, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Three people were also killed in an accident in Canada.
Massachusetts shut down Boston’s extensive mass transit system on Friday and Governor Deval Patrick took the unusual step of banning most car travel starting Friday afternoon. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state’s highways to all but emergency vehicles.
Whether by necessity or choice, many people still took to the roads overnight. Some drivers caught in white-out conditions were forced to sleep inside their cars on the side of the Long Island Expressway. Others abandoned vehicles altogether on roads around the region.
Some commuter trains that run between New York City and Westchester County, Long Island and Connecticut were suspended as the snow piled up. Amtrak suspended railroad service between New York, Boston and other northern destinations.
New York City subway service was running with some delays Saturday morning.
Power outages hit a number of regions. More than 200,000 lost power in Rhode Island, 160,000 in Massachusetts, and 30,000 in Connecticut, according to local utilities.
For those who were able to stay indoors, the overnight storm ushered in a Saturday morning winter wonderland. Local news in New York and Connecticut show some people heading out to sled in yards.
Agencies add: About half a million customers were without power with air, road and rail links paralyzed.
New York area airports LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark, which halted all flights during the height of the storm Friday, were expected to resume service shortly. However, FlightAware.com listed almost 2,000 cancellations, on top of the 3,000 plus flights scrapped Friday. Amtrak said its rail link between New York and Boston would remain closed, but trains were resuming normal schedules to the capital, Washington.
On Saturday, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy also extended a partial driving ban to all roads until further notice.
“It’s critical right now that residents stay off the roads, so that our plows can continue their efforts to clear our streets and highways,” Malloy said. “This is a record setting storm. It’s going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process. Unless you face an emergency, please stay put.”
But in New York City most roads were cleared by morning. “Looks like we dodged a bullet,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
With wind and heavy snow snapping power lines, more than half a million customers lost electricity, including 389,000 in Massachusetts, 177,000 in Rhode Island, and 35,000 in Connecticut.
Utility companies in Connecticut said they were planning for up to 30 percent of their customers, or more than 400,000 homes, to eventually lose power.
The severity of the impact was lessened by the storm’s timing at the start of a weekend, but even the almost deserted roads across the region were highly dangerous.
In Auburn, New Hampshire, a man was killed after losing control of his car and hitting a tree, local officials said.
Minor injuries were reported in a 19-car pileup on Interstate 295 in Falmouth, Maine, caused by poor visibility and slippery road conditions.
The National Weather Service said the low pressure system, now centered just out at sea off Cape Cod, would “reach its peak intensity this morning before pulling slowly away from the New England coast.”
“Wind gusts of up to hurricane force are possible early today, especially near the coast, before they slowly subside through the rest of the day,” the NWS said. “Travel conditions will continue to be extremely hazardous, if not impossible.”
Meanwhile, flights resumed with delays at New York airports Saturday after a fierce blizzard passed.
“Airlines are expected to begin limited service this morning, but all travelers should check with airlines carriers for flight status,” the New York and New Jersey Port Authority said on Twitter.