The wait for snow along the East Coast ended before sunrise Saturday as the first flakes fell in what threatened to be the area's worst winter storm since 1996.
The holiday weekend snowstorm was forecast to dump as much as a foot of snow in some areas, and high wind created the possibility of blizzard conditions.
Even before a single flake fell, residents along the East Coast scrambled for groceries, boots, shovels and salt.
"It's going to be ugly. We're going to be taking down a significant portion of our schedule throughout the Northeast." Russ Williams Delta spokesman
"We can't stock items as fast as they are buying them," Ed Camp, manager of a Home Depot store in Philadelphia, said Friday. "People are buying anything and everything."
The storm making its way up the East Coast was expected to reach Boston by Saturday evening. At the same time, a storm in the Midwest was working its way east over the Appalachians, and the two were to merge.
Up to 10 inches of snow was forecast for New York and Boston. The coasts of Maryland, Delaware, and northern Virginia was expected to get at least 6 inches. More than a foot was possible farther inland.
"After they said there was going to be a foot of snow, I came right out to get eggs and milk," said Jacqueline Logan of Harrisburg, Pa., whose shopping cart also was loaded with milk, hot dogs, orange juice and toilet paper. "I just don't want to run out of anything."
Road maintenance crews around the region got plows ready, outfitted trucks with snow gear, piled up salt and sand and put workers on standby for what could be the area's heaviest snowfall since January 1996. That storm dumped more than 20 inches of snow across parts of the East, including New York and Pennsylvania.
Anticipating the storm, several airlines, including Continental, Northwest and TWA, on Friday began canceling weekend flights to and from the East.
"It's going to be ugly," Delta Air Lines spokesman Russ Williams said. "We're going to be taking down a significant portion of our schedule throughout the Northeast."
In Somers Point, N.J., Shore True Value Hardware sold all 300 shovels that had been delivered the day before. Another delivery was expected, and Austin Gibbons, 79, said he would be back. In the meantime, he was headed to a liquor store: "I need a bottle of J&B. That's going to hold me over."
Customers at Pennington Market in Pennington, N.J., bought milk, bread and soup -- along with snacks and deli trays -- to prepare for both the storm and the New Year's weekend.
And shoppers at Pelican Ski & Snowboard Shops in Morris Plains, N.J., grabbed sleds along with snow boots and long johns.
Pelican Ski store owner Ken Spilatro said sales have doubled in the past few days, a welcome development after a stretch of warm winters. "We've been waiting for this for a couple of years," he said.
Elsewhere, people across the Plains continued to deal with the aftermath of storms that hit earlier in the week, killing at least 40 people. Thousands remained without power in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
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National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov
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