BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts residents hunkered down Friday for a blizzard that brought gusty winds, coastal flooding potential and the possibility of as much as 3 feet of snow to the eastern part of the state.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency and banned travel on roads as of 4 p.m., saying the storm posed "extremely dangerous conditions" with bands of snow dropping up to 2 to 3 inches per hour at its height.
The statewide travel ban, believed to be the first of its kind since the blizzard of 1978, provides exceptions including public works and public safety employees, utility workers and members of the news media. Patrick said it was not to punish drivers, but to make sure emergency workers and plowing crews have access to the roads. Emergency management officials said people were observing the ban.
By late Friday, more than 300,000 customers were without power in Massachusetts, most of them in the southeastern part of the state and on Cape Cod. Emergency workers at the ready included 2,000 utility crews to deal with power outages, Patrick said.
Boston and much of eastern Massachusetts were under a blizzard warning until 1 p.m. Saturday. A flood warning was in effect until noon Saturday for the state's east-facing coastline, with the worst conditions expected Saturday morning.
Boston was among the cities closing schools and declaring snow emergencies and parking bans.
"This is a storm of major proportions," Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."
Stores throughout the state were packed with people buying food, shovels, batteries and other storm supplies.
At a Stop & Shop supermarket in Whitman, bread, milk and bundles of firewood were nearly gone by 9:30 a.m. Friday. Yet some shoppers were still skeptical that the storm would be as huge as predicted.
"I just want to see if it's going to really happen," said Jessica Zinkevicz, 31, a certified nursing assistant from East Bridgewater who went to Stop & Shop to stock up on Diet Snapple, water and frozen vegetables.
"I'm just taking it as it comes," she said. "Once it starts coming down hard, then I might start panicking."
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shut down all service — including subways, commuter trains and buses — by 3:30 p.m. State transportation officials expected service to be up and running again by Monday morning.
Boston's Logan International Airport said it would try to stay open during the storm, but no flights were scheduled before Saturday evening.
Predictions of 2 feet or more of snow could make the storm one of the biggest in recorded history, but an even greater concern than the snow was the possibility of a damaging storm surge.