(Reuters) – A swath of the U.S. East Coast from Philadelphia to New York City to Maine was bracing for a potentially historic blizzard on Monday that is expected to dump as much as 3 feet (90 cm) of snow and snarl transportation for tens of millions of people.
The National Weather Service on Sunday issued a blizzard warning for the northern section of the East Coast from Monday afternoon until Tuesday and placed states from New Jersey to Indiana under winter storm watches and advisories.
“This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference.
De Blasio told residents of America’s financial capital and most populous city to stay off the roads and to “prepare for something worse than we have seen before.”
The NWS called it a “crippling and potentially historic blizzard” and said the New York City area could be the hardest hit with lashing winds and snowfall of up to 36 inches on the way.
“All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon,” it said.
Cities along the heavily populated East Coast had snowplows and trucks to dispense road salt on standby. Stores were bracing for a rush of shoppers stocking up on essentials.
The Philadelphia Streets Department said on its Facebook page that crews were preparing for a “messy Monday morning commute,” while the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation told travelers to postpone travel if necessary.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation will have its entire fleet of snowplows, including 12 loader-mounted snowblowers, prepared to deploy, the governor’s office said.
American Airlines has canceled a handful of flights, including a Monday flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to London’s Heathrow airport and one scheduled to depart on Monday from Heathrow to New York, spokesman Matt Miller said.
Southwest, Delta and other carriers had not canceled flights but were bracing for problems.
“It’s safe to say there will be cancellations,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said.
The NWS expects as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of snow for western Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, while parts of New Jersey through eastern Massachusetts may get 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) of snow by Tuesday morning.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Peter Cooney)