Winter Storm Kills 5, Leaves 2M Without Power, Grounds Thousands of Flights

Nationwide, 3,067 flights have been canceled and scores more were delayed as of 9:30 a.m ET Friday

At least five people were killed by falling trees or branches, and airlines canceled over 5,000 flights Friday as a major Nor'easter clobbered the East Coast on Friday with a ferocious mix of heavy rain, damaging winds, intermittent snow and coastal flooding.

Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and American Airlines were allowing travelers to change their Friday and Saturday flights in anticipation of the massive storm hitting major cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Providence and Hartford.

Nationwide, 5,489 flights, both domestic and international, have been canceled for Friday and scores more were delayed as of 11:00 p.m ET Friday, according to More than 655 flights were already canceled for Saturday. Customers are advised to check with their carriers before heading to the airport.

Amtrak service between Boston and Washington, D.C. was also canceled on Friday after the effort to restore service was deemed unsafe because of storm-related damage on one of its Northeast Corridor lines. Train en route to New York Penn Station, Boston and Washington were told to stop at the nearest station and hold, Amtrak said. 

The Eastern Seaboard was getting buffeted by wind gusts exceeding 50 mph, with possible hurricane-strength winds of 80 to 90 mph on on Cape Cod. 

Regional power utilities reported widespread outages from North Carolina to Massachusetts. The website, which tracks utilities across the nation, reported nearly 2 million customers without power as of 11:00 p.m. ET Friday. 

Across the East Coast, authorities told residents of coastal communities to be prepared to evacuate, if necessary, in advance of high tides. The weather service said all of Rhode Island was under flood and high wind watches through Sunday morning.

The storm killed at least five people, including a 77-year-old woman struck by a branch outside her home near Baltimore. Fallen trees also killed a man and a 6-year-old boy in different parts of Virginia, an 11-year-old boy in New York state and a man in Newport, Rhode Island.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated 200 National Guard members to help with the storm and a state of emergency was declared in Marshfield and Scituate where high tides brought coastal flooding, NBC Boston reported.

A storm surge at Boston Harbor peaked at its third-highest level on record, the National Weather Service reported. A car was swept up in the deluge in Quincy prompting a water rescue, and police warned residents not to risk driving in floodwaters.

The Coast Guard advised boaters to exercise "vigilance and extreme caution." The National Weather Service warned that the storm would morph into heavier, wet snow later Friday.

In New Jersey, scattered flooding was reported in coastal areas and photos posted on social media showed the Hoboken train station taking on water from the Hudson River, NBC New York reported.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a travel advisory for all areas north of New York City, requesting limited travel due to dangerous driving conditions.

While New York City was only expected to see up to an inch of snow, further north in the Catskills and to the West in the Poconos, the storm dumped up to a foot of the white stuff.

In the Washington, D.C., howling winds knocked down trees overnight and left more than 100,000 customers without power Friday morning. Dangerous wind gusts of 60mph were forecast through 6 a.m. Saturday, NBC Washington reported. Schools around the District closed Friday because of the dangerous road conditions. 

A tree crashed onto the roof of a commuter outside Philadelphia, halting traffic on a busy highway, NBC Philadelphia reported. The transportation agency reported four people were hurt in the crash. Their conditions were not immeditately known.  

And in Maryland, a 100-year-old woman had to be rescued after a tree sliced through her home overnight. Kensington firefighters pulled her from the debris and she was taken to the hospital. The woman's injuries are not life-threatening.

Downed trees and wires were also reported across Connecticut and more than 40,000 homes and businesses were without power, NBC Connecticut reported. Dozens of schools around the state were closed Friday in anticipation for storm that was forecast to drop anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow in some parts of Connecticut. 

And on the West coast another major winter storm was making its way south through California, bringing heavy snow, strong winds, steady rain and prompting mandatory evacuations for coastal areas to the south that were devastated by deadly mudslides in January.

Thousands of residents near the wildfire-scorched areas in Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate before the storm arrived early Friday, NBC Los Angeles reported. Authorities also warned residents in Los Angeles County burn areas to be prepared for mud and debris flows, which can developed during heavy downpours.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said forecasters weren't certain how intense the storm would be when it arrives in Southern California. However, modeling indicates "there is a risk for dangerous flash flooding, mud and debris flows," he warned.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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