New York - A major blizzard was pounding the eastern US early Saturday, dropping a blanket of snow and scrubbing the coast with 100-kilometre-per-hour winds and dousing electricity for thousands.
Wind whipped snow drifts up to a metre high in Boston, as Massachusetts took the brunt of the storm. A city worker said it was the worst storm since 1978, when a 36-hour blizzard killed 100 people in the state and Rhode Island.
Nearly 60 centimetres had fallen in parts of Massachusetts, and the National Weather Service expected the snow to continue through midday Saturday.
More than 300,000 electric customers had lost power in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe. The power outage caused a shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, according to WATD radio in Plymouth.
The incident was declared an "unusual event," described as the lowest of four levels of emergency classification, officials said.
The blizzard, christened "Nemo" by the Weather Channel, closed down transport on the eastern coast from Philadelphia to Boston, emptying roads and urban streets as people followed official urging to stay home.
Air, road and rail movement came to a near standstill across the region that is home to about 40 million people.
The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Maine declared states of emergency.
Cities in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York were expecting up to 30 centimetres of snow, while Boston was threatened with more than 100 centimetres by the time the storm moves into the Atlantic Ocean.
"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Stay off the roads. Stay home." Charlie Robertson, in Summit, New Jersey, took advantage of the storm to do just that Friday afternoon. He was pulling 6-year-old daughter Kate on her lime-green sled through the otherwise deserted streets of a residential area.
"(We'll do) probably a lot of sledding outside, enjoying the weather, enjoying family and just staying home inside," Robertson told dpa.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered a traffic ban starting Friday for all but emergency vehicles and media, believed to be the first such ban since 1978. Violators faced fines of up to 500 dollars or even jail.
shelves were emptied in grocery stores in Boston, where police even received complaints of shoppers grabbing bread from each other's carts in the scramble to stock up on supplies.
More than 3,500 flights were canceled including international arrivals and departures, according to FlightAware.com.