Northeast braces for blizzard; More than 5,000 flights canceled

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Airline passengers stand in line as they wait to rebook their canceled flights as a winter storm heads toward the Northeast. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) Airline passengers stand in line as they wait to rebook their canceled flights as a winter storm heads toward the Northeast. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
A sign warns motorists about an impending winter storm in Fort Lee, N.J., Monday, March 13, 2017. The Northeast is bracing for a blizzard expected to sweep the New York region with possibly the season's biggest snowstorm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) A sign warns motorists about an impending winter storm in Fort Lee, N.J., Monday, March 13, 2017. The Northeast is bracing for a blizzard expected to sweep the New York region with possibly the season's biggest snowstorm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
This satellite image taken around 12:12 a.m. EDT and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows clouds around the Northeast on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (NOAA via AP) This satellite image taken around 12:12 a.m. EDT and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows clouds around the Northeast on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (NOAA via AP)

By DEEPTI HAJELA
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - A powerful nor'easter is beginning to lash the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast prompting flight cancellations, school closures and warnings from city and state officials to stay off the roads.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

[RESOURCE: FlightAware flight tracker]

[MORE: Weather]

The storm was expected to dump 1 to 2 feet of snow on the New York City metro area with wind gusts of up to 55 mph.

The weather service's office near Philadelphia called the storm "life-threatening" and warned people to "shelter in place." Coastal flood warnings were in effect from Massachusetts to Delaware.

According to the airline-tracking website FlightAware, more than 5,000 Tuesday flights were canceled. Amtrak also canceled and modified service up and down the Northeast Corridor. In New York City, the above-ground portions of the subway system were being shut down Tuesday morning.

In Massachusetts, where forecasts called for 12 to 18 inches of snow, Gov. Charlie Baker encouraged motorists to stay off the roads and to take public transit only if absolutely necessary. The fast snowfall rates will "create hazardous driving conditions across the Commonwealth," he said.

Schools in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere were all closed Tuesday.

Bank teller Jana White said her plans for riding out the storm included "lots of hot chocolate and a couple of sappy movies." The 23-year-old Trenton, New Jersey, resident said she expected to get Tuesday off work.

"It's a reminder that winter is always ready to take shot at you, so you have to stay prepared," she said. "We've got food and snacks and drinks, so as long as the power stays on we should be in good shape."

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and urged residents not to be lulled into a false sense of security due to the mild winter.

"This is a serious winter storm," Hogan said, adding that some parts of the state could see 12 to 18 inches of snow. "It's obviously going to be the biggest event we've had this season and people need to be prepared. They need to be safe."

The heaviest snowfall was expected Tuesday morning through the afternoon, with snowfall rates as high as 2 to 4 inches per hour.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said that approximately 700 National Guard members would be deployed, along with more than 2,000 snow plows to keep up with the storm that was expected to bring a foot or more of snow to some parts of the state.

The nor'easter comes a week after the region saw temperatures climb into the 60s. Spring officially starts on March 20.

___

Associated Press writer Bruce Shipkowski contributed to this report from Trenton, New Jersey.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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