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Historic Blizzard Freezes Transit In Northeast U.S.


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Heavy snow is falling across the Northeast, and when it's all over, winter storm Nemo could be a blizzard of historic proportions. The governor of Massachusetts has even ordered all cars off the roads.

CORNISH: The impact on transportation is widespread: thousands of flights cancelled, trains service disrupted. NPR's Jim Zarroli tells us more.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: From New Jersey to Maine today, public officials pleaded with residents not to go outside unless they absolutely needed to. Here was Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

GOVERNOR DAN MALLOY: The whole point of this is if you don't currently have a reason to be on the road, if you're not an emergency personnel that's required to report to work somewhere, stay home now. This is it.

ZARROLI: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island all declared a state of emergency. It wasn't just the heavy snow that posed a threat. In Massachusetts, where people still talk about the blizzard of 1978, forecasters say wind gusts could be 70 miles an hour. Yesterday, Governor Deval Patrick asked people not to drive unless necessary. Today, he ordered them off the roads altogether by 4 p.m.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: This is going to be a very serious weather event. If we get the amount of snow forecast, the recovery will be slow. People should prepare for that.

ZARROLI: Perhaps because this blizzard comes so close on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, people were inclined to take the threat of a bad storm pretty seriously. In Boston, cab driver Jean de Mustaine(ph) heard about the order to get off the roads and didn't lose any time complying.

JEAN DE MUSTAINE: I'm going to go home. I'm not going to go out. I'm going to sleep. All cab drivers have to stop by 4 p.m. because the way it is now, it's going to be bad.

ZARROLI: With the roads closed, there was no way to get around. Air travel has pretty much ground to a halt. All public transportation in and around Boston was suspended. But a lot of people were trying to make the best of it. Carol Levitt(ph) caught one of the last commuter trains out of South Station. She was heading outside the city to go sledding.

CAROL LEVITT: I am going to the suburbs so that I can enjoy some adventures in the snow with friends and family, and it beats the heck out of staying holed up in my apartment in Boston.

ZARROLI: The snow is expected to be lighter in the New York area, but it could still amount to a foot or more by tomorrow afternoon. Long Island Railroad, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit scheduled extra trains throughout the afternoon to help commuters get out of the city faster.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Pleased be advised, there will be no more train service after 1 p.m.

ZARROLI: At Penn Station, a larger than normal crowd of people stood waiting to board the trains. Amtrak suspended all service north of the city by the early afternoon. Jasmine Castro(ph) came from Baltimore for the weekend for a long-planned trip. The bus she wanted to take was cancelled, so she came on the train, but the weekend was quickly unraveling anyway.

JASMINE CASTRO: I'm here for a Christmas present that my boyfriend bought me to see the "Sex and the City" tour and also to see "Chicago" for the Broadway show. And then as soon as we got on, he got a phone call saying the "Sex and the City" tour was cancelled. So hopefully "Chicago's" still on.

ZARROLI: But the subways are running, and life in the city is about as normal as it can be, given a storm of this magnitude. That's not the case in the suburbs. Parts of Long Island are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy a little more than three months ago, and the blizzard is expected to hit that area especially hard. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.