Hundreds of thousands of people were urged to evacuate ahead of Friday’s Hurricane Irene-like Nor’easter that the National Weather Service is calling a dangerous storm.
Gusts at Boston Harbor reached 76 mph on Friday evening, according to the weather service.
Gov. Deval Patrick said on Twitter, “Nor’easter brings dangerous wind, messy rain and flooding to Massachusetts. Keep off roads if possible to ensure safety.”
State police deployed troopers to ready roadways, while airport officials prepared for what they said would be “hazardous winds and downed trees.”
Transportation Secretary Richard Davey urged state residents to be on the lookout for downed power lines in their neighborhoods and remain vigilant as the storm progresses.
“Even low-lying coastal areas could experience flooding tonight,” Davey said.
Patrick declared a State of Emergency Thursday for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The state government offices were closed Friday, and private business were advised to close or reduce staff by Friday afternoon.
State parks on Friday were expected to remain open, but be closed Saturday as wind speeds in parks are forecasted to reach 45 mph.
The National Weather Service predicted that areas around the Massachusetts coast should be bracing for a wintry mix of rain and sleet that could range from 1 to 2 inches by Sunday morning.
In the Washington area, the storm could push out a thundershower on Friday night. For a full update, go to our Storm Tracker blog.
As of Friday night, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Maryland remained on track to receive eight to 10 inches of rain, and urged people to seek shelter. O’Malley told reporters that 10 to 20 inches of snow are possible from Maryland into Ohio and Virginia.
He said crews are prepared to respond to heavy snow in parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, and cautioned residents to prepare for state offices to close on Saturday.
Winter storm warnings were issued for western New York for at least a week.
Early Friday, New Jersey declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, asking for evacuations for the southern reaches of New Jersey’s Atlantic coast.
The National Hurricane Center said the huge Atlantic storm, which has since been re-named the Nor’easter, has become more powerful and is threatening the mid-Atlantic states.
But a tornado watch has been canceled for New York City, Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
The storm was not expected to be as damaging as Hurricane Irene in August. But it is moving farther north and west than Irene, bringing wind gusts into the 40 mph range and causing two to three inches of rain throughout northern and eastern New England.
Boston city officials said Friday evening that Ocean State beaches would close at 8 p.m. and that all parks and beaches would close at 10 p.m. Friday.
City officials urged anyone in Boston to refrain from walking through stormwater channels and waterways.