Air traffic shuts down as Canada and USA brace for blizzard | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 09.02.2013
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Air traffic shuts down as Canada and USA brace for blizzard

A massive snowstorm has descended over the US northeast. There is widespread travel disruption as airports close down.

Airlines cancelled more than 3,500 flights for Friday and Saturday, according to the tracking website FlightAware. New York City's three main airports and Boston's Logan shut down from Friday afternoon.

Boston was forecast to get meters (3.3 feet) of snow, which would far exceed the city's record snowfall of 70 centimeters (2.3 feet) in 2003, the National Weather Service reported. It would place the storm among the 10 worst in US history.

"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino warned. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

The rail network Amtrak suspended its train service from New York to Boston on Friday afternoon. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," he said. Bloomberg advised households to stock up on supplies, including medicine.

Driving conditions were treacherous. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a ban on most car travel starting Friday afternoon. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state's highways to all but emergency vehicles. Snow was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine on Friday morning.

Fuel shortages were reported from Connecticut to New York City as motorists queued at petrol stations to fill up their vehicles, generators and snowblowers.

The heaviest snowfall was expected Friday night and into Saturday, with winds up to 121 kph (75 mph). Widespread power failures along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October were being predicted.

"This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

In eastern Canada, more than 350 accidents due to the weather conditions were reported in Ontario province on Friday, along with at least four weather-related fatalities. Toronto experienced its biggest snowstorm since 2008. About 800 flights, or nearly half of those scheduled, were cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

jm/ch (Reuters, AP)