PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island emergency management officials urged residents Thursday to prepare for a potentially dangerous winter storm that could bring strong wind gusts and up to 2 feet of snow to the state.
The blizzard is expected to move into the area Friday morning, with snowfalls steadily increasing through the day, according to National Weather Service forecasters in Taunton, Mass. A blizzard warning was issued beginning Friday morning for all of Rhode Island.
Snow could fall as much as 3 inches per hour on Friday night and into Saturday morning. The weather service predicted drifting snow and wind gusts up to 55 mph, making travel "nearly impossible."
Friday classes were called off in most school districts in the state, and some municipalities declared parking bans beginning Friday for certain streets to give snowplows better access. The state Department of
Transportation urged residents to avoid any unnecessary travel on Friday.
"We have a very serious storm approaching," said Gov. Lincoln Chafee. "I encourage all Rhode Islanders to take this seriously. This is a major storm. Be prepared."
National Grid, the state's main electricity provider, said it was readying crews and equipment, and state officials said residents should make sure they have warm clothes, blankets, food and heating fuel ready in case power goes out. Residents also were encouraged to check carbon monoxide detectors in their homes and make sure their vehicles have ample fuel and up-to-date emergency kits.
"Keeping warm during winter power outages is critical, especially for the elderly or for people who are not physically active or use life-sustaining equipment," said Theresa Murray, executive director of the state's
Emergency Management Agency. "Now is the perfect time to check your emergency kits and replace anything that is broken or expired."
At a hardware store in Providence, business was brisk Thursday afternoon as customers snatched up snow shovels, windshield wiper fluid and flashlight batteries. Central Falls resident Wilfred Brunelle stocked up on milk, bread and other essentials at the grocer before buying two extra shovels. He also picked up a space heater in case he loses power.
"I'm used to this," said Brunelle, a lifelong Rhode Islander. "But you have to be ready for it."
Brunelle's 4-year-old daughter Jeannette was looking forward to the storm; her eyes brightened at the mention of snowmen and snowballs. "Snow is my favorite season," she said.
Providence officials encouraged businesses to allow employees to leave work Friday by noon or to work from home to keep people and traffic off the streets during the storm. The city warned residents that while the Friday morning commute may be problem-free, the ride home Friday afternoon could be "impossible."
State transportation chief Michael Lewis said snowplows and salt trucks were preparing for the onslaught, but said if forecasts calling for 2-3 inches an hour are correct, crews will be overwhelmed with work.
"No matter how many trucks we have out there, they won't be able to keep up," he said.
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