BOSTON - The US Northeast faced yet another major winter storm at the weekend, with blizzard conditions in six states' coastal regions, much of which is already buried under record-setting snow, forecasters said.
More than 50 million people from Michigan to southern Canada were in the path of the storm, which was tracking east over the Great Lakes and gaining strength as it approached the Atlantic coast of New England, the National Weather Service said.
The most severe weather was heading for the New England coast, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire, late Saturday into Sunday. Forecasters expected heavy snow accompanied by hurricane-force wind gusts of up to 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.
In Boston, snow fell hard Saturday afternoon, pausing for an evening lull before picking up again. Forecasters predicted accumulations of up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow through Sunday.
Boston has seen about 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow since late January and set a record for accumulations in a single week.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged couples to treat Valentine's Day night as if they were Cinderella - coming home before the worst of the blizzard was expected early Sunday. "Everybody should be able to go out tonight and enjoy their Valentine's Day evening as long as they get home before midnight," he said, asking residents to stay off the roads on Sunday when public transportation would also be suspended.
About 600 members of the National Guard are helping out during the blizzard, Baker said.
For many retailers and restaurants, the Valentine's Day timing of the storm couldn't have been worse. "This was really going to be gangbuster weekend," said Joe Cassinelli, 38, who owns three restaurants in Somerville, just north of Boston. "All the restaurants in the area are basically trying to survive this winter, and we were all looking to Valentine's Day." In New Hampshire, the town of Alton called off its annual ice carnival this weekend due to concerns over massive snow squalls and wind gusts.
Even before the brunt of the storm moved in, the weather had disrupted travel at East Coast airports, with more than 1,500 flights cancelled in the United States for Sunday, according to Flightaware.com, a website that tracks air traffic.
Forecasters said the driving winds and extreme cold made this storm particularly treacherous.
The wind chill in Boston could hit minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 Celsius) on Monday, with a wind chill of minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit predicted for western Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said.
As the storms continue, Boston has struggled to find places to put the snow. Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that the city was relying on 10 local dumping grounds, called snow farms, while seeking more.