Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET: With the worst still to come, wind-whipped snow coated much of New England and dusted New York on Friday — the beginning of what forecasters said would become a dazzling, dangerous and perhaps even record-shattering winter storm.
Airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights, Boston closed its subway, Amtrak suspended some service, and cities across the Northeast made plans to deploy an armada of snowplows and salt-spreading trucks.
Forecasters said they expected Massachusetts to get the worst, including accumulation of 3 feet in some spots. The worst snowfall on record in Boston was a 27.5-inch blast a decade ago, a record forecasters said was in danger.
The weather service warned that the storm would be accompanied by winds almost as powerful as those packed by a hurricane.
“Visibilities will become poor, with whiteout conditions at times,” the weather service said in an advisory issued Friday morning for the Boston area. “Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented.”
Justin Lane / EPA
Worker Jimmy White attaches chains to tires at a New York City Department of Sanitation facility Thursday in preparation for the major winter storm expected to hit Friday.
The winter storm gathered strength as two weather systems — a so-called clipper pattern sweeping across the Midwest and a band of rain from the South — began to converge over the Northeast.
The Weather Channel said that snow would be heavy at times Friday in New York state, parts of Pennsylvania and most of New England. By Friday night, forecasters called for snow falling at 2 to 3 inches per hour in New England.
Heavy, wind-driven snow was expected to coat New England on Saturday and shift to the New England coast by Saturday afternoon, the network said. Snow was finally expected to taper off in Boston by Saturday night and pull off the Maine coast by Sunday morning.
Amtrak said it would cancel train service between New York and Boston on Friday, with the last northbound train leaving New York at 12:30 p.m. and the last southbound train leaving Boston at 1:40.
Coastal areas of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island, were warned to brace for wind gusts over 70 mph. Those living on north- and east-facing shorelines from Boston south to Cape Cod Bay were told to prepare for tides 2 to 4 feet above normal.
Flooding and beach erosion were dangers, and the weather service warned of widespread coastal flooding from Boston northward.
“This one doesn’t come along every day,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist for the weather service. “Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving.”