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US braced for 'historic' blizzard

A potentially historic blizzard could dump up to two feet (60cm) of snow on a large part of the US Northeast, crippling a region that has largely been spared so far this winter, the US forecasters said as thousands of flights were cancelled.

The National Weather Service said the storm, known as a nor'easter, would bring heavy snow, powerful winds and widespread coastal flooding throughout tomorrow.

A blizzard warning has been issued for a 250-mile (400km) stretch of the Northeast, including New York and Boston.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio said: "This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before,"

He was speaking at a news conference in a Manhattan sanitation garage where workers were preparing ploughs and salt for the massive clean-up on about 6,000 miles of city roads.

Some schools were planning to close early or not open at all today in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Government officials began to activate emergency centres yesterday as professional sports teams, schools and utilities hastily revised their schedules and made preparations.

In Massachusetts, governor Charlie Baker warned residents to prepare for roads that are "very hard, if not impossible, to navigate", power outages and possibly even a lack of public transportation.

Boston is expected to get 18 to 24 inches of snow, with up to two feet or more west of the city, and Philadelphia could see up to a foot, the weather service said.

The Washington area expected only a couple of inches, with steadily increasing amounts as the storm heads north.

"We do anticipate very heavy snowfall totals," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the weather service in College Park, Maryland. "In addition to heavy snow, with blizzard warnings, there's a big threat of high, damaging winds, and that will be increasing Monday into Tuesday. A lot of blowing, drifting and such."

Wind gusts of 75 mph or more are possible for coastal areas of Massachusetts, and up to 50 mph further inland, Mr Oravec said.

Airlines have cancelled and delayed thousands of flights into and out of East Coast airports. Most major airlines are allowing customers whose flights are cancelled in the next few days to book new flights without paying a penalty.

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