BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency throughout Massachusetts Friday, banning most vehicles from the roadways in the midst of a dangerous blizzard forecasters say could dump more than 2 feet of snow and feature winds beyond 60 miles per hour before it ends Saturday morning.
The Northeast-wide storm cancelled more than 5,000 airline flights at Boston and New York airports. Trains, subways, buses and water transporation were at a standstill. Hundreds of vehicle accidents were reported as commuters sought to get home for the weekend.
Towns along the Atlantic Coast experienced flooding and beach erosion that was expected to get worse as the wind-driven storm intensified. Whiteout conditions were reported throughout the state.
"This is a very serious weather event," said Patrick. "Everyone needs to use their common sense and stay safe."
The blizzard was fueled by the collison of a cold high-pressure system from Canada with a warmer low-pressure system from the south moving up the coast. The National Weather Service said the clash could result in a historic nor'easter storm for this time of year.
The vehicle ban applied to all roads and nonessential travel. Exceptions were made for emergency and public safety vehicles. Violators were subject to a year in jail and a $500 fine.
Fear of the storm's consequences triggered memories of the historic Blizzard of '78, a nor-easter that paralyzed the Boston area for three days and dumped more than 3 feet of snow. There were also numerous deaths and an estimated $1 billion in damage to coastal homes and other property.
"We don't' expect it to be that bad," said meteorologist Bill Simpson of the National Weather Service.