NEW YORK (AP) — A winter that has largely spared the Northeast thus far is about to arrive with gusto: A storm the National Weather Service called "potentially historic" could dump 2 to 3 feet of snow from northern New Jersey to Connecticut.
A blizzard warning was issued for New York and Boston, and the National Weather Service said the massive storm would bring heavy snow and powerful winds starting Monday and into Tuesday.
"This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference Sunday.
De Blasio held up a piece of paper showing the city's top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872. "Don't underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst," he said as he urged residents to plan to leave work early Monday.
Boston is expected to get 18 to 24 inches of snow, and Philadelphia could see 14 to 18 inches, the weather service said Sunday.
A weekend storm that had brought snow and slush to the Northeast — the first real snow of the season for many areas — was just a warm up.
"Looks like our luck is about to run out," said John Paulsen as he gassed up his sport utility vehicle in New Jersey. "I can't complain too much since we've had a pretty mild winter, but I don't know if I'm ready for a foot or so of snow all at once."
The storm system driving out of the Midwest brought snow to Ohio on Sunday and was expected to ultimately spread from the nation's capital to Maine.
Lesser totals were forecast for the Washington area — a coating or a bit more — with steadily increasing amounts expected as the storm plods its way north. The storm promised treacherous travel by both land and air throughout the busy northeast corridor.
At New York's Penn Station, Cicero Goncalves was waiting for a train to Vermont, where he's going snowboarding, because he expected the flight he had hoped to take would be canceled.
But the 34-year-old flight attendant from Queens counted himself and his travel partner as lucky. "We'll get there before it snows, and we're coming back when the storm is over, on Thursday," he said.
Preparations large and small were in effect elsewhere in New York. A Manhattan Home Depot store sold about twice as many shovels over the weekend as it normally does while transit officials hoping to keep the subways running smoothly planned to use modified subway cars loaded with de-icing fluid to spray the third rail that powers trains.
Farther north, a blizzard warning was issued for Boston from Monday night through early Wednesday. Wind gusts of 60 mph or more are possible on Cape Cod, forecasters said.
Wyatt Baars, manager of the Charlestown Ace Hardware in Boston, sold out of his bags of ice-melting pellets. But he said a New Hampshire distributor is helping him and delivering more.
"Everybody is preparing for the storm," he said. "When we have something this big on the horizon, everybody comes in for the ice melt, snow shovels, snow brooms."
Snow plow driver Al Laplant expected to be out clearing roads of Simsbury, Connecticut this week, just as he has for more than two decades.
"We'll be out there until the storm's over and then at least three hours after cleaning up," he said as he attended a home show in Hartford. "We'll be out there through the whole storm."
But even for a plow driver, the snow is no cake walk.
"It's kind of exhilarating," he said. "But at the same time, I've been doing it for 27 years, so I'm kind of tired of it myself."
Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut; Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, New Jersey; and Deepti Hajela in New York contributed to this report.