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Major blizzard blankets U.S. Northeast, disrupting traffic and flights

A major blizzard is continuing to pummel the Northeastern United States today, disrupting thousands of flights, shutting down roads and mass transit and blanketing the region with heavy snowfall.

Hundreds of thousands of people lost power, with more than 200,000 reported outages in Massachusetts, more than 100,000 in Rhode Island, and 30,000 in Connecticut, according to local utilities.

Forecasters warned that about 60 cm of snow would blanket most of the Boston area with some spots getting as much as 76 cm. New York was due to get about 30 cm in some areas, while heavy snowfall was also expected in Connecticut and Maine.

Winds reached 56 to 64 km per hour by yesterday afternoon and forecasters expected gusts up to  97 kph.

The storm prompted the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine to declare states of emergency in the face of the fearsome snowstorm. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick took the rare step of announcing a ban on most car travel starting yesterday afternoon, while Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed the state's highways to all but emergency vehicles.

By Friday night some commuter trains that run between New York City and Westchester County, Long Island and Connecticut had already been suspended. Amtrak suspended railroad service between New York, Boston and points north on Friday afternoon.

In many cases, authorities ordered non-essential government workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

"People need to take this storm seriously," said Malloy, Connecticut's governor. "Please stay home once the weather gets bad except in the case of real emergency."

The storm wasn't bad news for everyone.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested people relax at home - cook or watch a movie. Bloomberg said he planned on catching up on his sleep.

As she stocked up at a Brooklyn grocery store, 28-year-old Jackie Chevallier said that after two years without much snow, she was looking forward to waking up to a sea of white.

"I'd like to go sledding," she said.

The storm also posed a risk of flooding at high tide to areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy last October.

"Many of the same communities that were inundated by Hurricane Sandy's tidal surge just about 100 days ago are likely to see some moderate coastal flooding this evening," said Bloomberg.

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