Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. Northeast braces for storm

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BOSTON -- A storm expected to bring heavy snow, stiff winds and punishing cold pushed into the Northeast on Thursday, extending Christmas break for some students while posing the first test for New York's new mayor and perhaps the last challenge for Boston's outgoing one.

Some schools in New England and New York closed well ahead of the snow, while cities mobilized plows and salt spreaders, and state offices sent workers home early. Some major highways were ordered shut down overnight. U.S. airlines cancelled more than 2,300 flights nationwide on Thursday in advance of the storm.

The heavy weather began rolling in just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation's largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office.

Menino announced a parking ban and said schools would be closed today in Boston, where up to 35 centimetres of snow were expected. Boston's airport said it would not handle any flights after 8:30 p.m. Thursday. "What a New Year's gift, to receive one last snowstorm as mayor," said Menino, whose successor takes office Monday.

De Blasio, who as public advocate in 2010 criticized his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said hundreds of plows and salt spreaders would be on the streets as soon as the snow started falling Thursday night.

"We have to get it right, no question about it," de Blasio said. "We are focused like a laser on protecting this city and getting everyone ready. We have all hands on deck."

Snow began falling overnight Wednesday in parts of New England and New York state, but the brunt of the storm wasn't expected until late Thursday. Forecasters said temperatures would plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above -17 C with wind-chill readings making it much colder.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Cape Cod, coastal areas north and south of Boston and part of Maine as well as New York's Long Island, where 20 to 25 cm of snow could fall and winds could gust to 72 kilometres per hour.

"We're going to see a lot of snow and a lot of wind," forecaster Jason Tuell said. "We're concerned about whiteout conditions possibly tonight with the blowing and drifting snow."

As the storm pushed eastward on New Year's Day and Thursday, it dropped as much as 45 cm on suburban Chicago and up to 25 cm on Michigan, prompting the cancellation Wednesday of hundreds of flights in and out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 A16

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