HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A powerful winter storm that swept into the Northeast on Friday caused dozens of car accidents and shortages at gas stations in Connecticut as residents braced for power outages and wind damage along the shoreline, where some are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared a state of emergency and deployed National Guard troops around the state in case they're needed for emergencies related to the storm, which was expected to dump up to two feet of snow across the region. Malloy also imposed a travel ban on the state's highways. State police responded to more than 600 calls for service by Friday evening.
Snow began to fall in the state Friday morning amid a blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service for all of Connecticut, along with other eastern parts of New England. Forecasters expected the worst of the storm to hit into Saturday morning, with heavy snow and wind gusts of up to 60 mph making driving extremely difficult.
In shoreline communities battered most recently by Sandy, residents prepared for the worst-case scenario. Hemlock Hardware in downtown Fairfield was doing a brisk business of selling shovels, batteries, firewood, salt and sand and sleds. The store was getting a lot of calls for generators, too.
"There's definitely a change in response to storms now," said owner Scott Pesavento. "Power outages, I guess, is the first concern now when they hear storm."
Al Terrile, a 69-year-old retired Southport resident, stocked up on batteries, a box of firewood and a light at the hardware store. He lost power for four days during Sandy.
"Maybe nothing will happen but just in case," he said. "It seems like our electrical system has suddenly turned fragile."
Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, the state's largest electricity suppliers, were planning for up to 30 percent of customers to lose power, Malloy said, and were calling in line crews from out of state. That would be more than 400,000 homes and businesses, although the companies reported only a few scattered outages Friday evening.
Some 1,000 state and private plow crews were clearing the roads.
Schools and colleges were closed, non-essential state employees were told to stay home, and airports were shut down. Some restaurants and other venues were closed at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, but the casinos were planning to stay open through the storm.
Gas stations ran out of fuel Thursday night during the rush to prepare for the storm. Motorists said stations in Torrington, West Hartford, Vernon, East Lyme and other towns ran out as people filled their cars and trucks as well as containers for generators and snow blowers. Long lines were reported at many stations.
James Small, 34, of Reading, Mass., bought two generators at The Home Depot in Manchester, Conn., just as the snow began to fall. The AT&T employee was wrapping up three days of work in central Connecticut and was about to start a two-hour drive home, where his wife and three young sons were awaiting his return.
"She's been pulling her hair out all week," he said.
The Weather Service posted a coastal flood warning for southern Fairfield County, saying Friday evening's high tide could be 3 to 5 feet higher than normal in western Long Island Sound.
Kathy Niznansky, a 65-year-old teacher in Fairfield, is still recovering from flooding from Sandy and was bracing for the blizzard and the potential for more flooding Friday. Sandy, which arrived on her birthday, knocked her out of her house near the beach for two months.
"I'm really nervous," Niznansky said. "Now I'm really worried about this tide tonight. I just don't want any more flooding."
She planned to take a walk and say some prayers, "because tonight is the surge and it reminds me so much of Sandy it makes my stomach jump."
All flights in and out of Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks after 1:30 p.m. were canceled. Airport spokesman John Wallace said most morning flights arrived and departed as scheduled but about 125 flights were canceled. Tweed-New Haven Airport was shut down.
Metro-North added extra trains in the afternoon in an effort to get riders to their destinations before the worst of the storm hit.
Amtrak suspended train service between Boston and New York Friday afternoon, following the earlier cancellation of service between Springfield, Mass.
Associated Press writers John Christoffersen in Fairfield and Stephen Singer in Manchester contributed to this report.