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Saturday August 29th, 2015 3:01PM

2014's first big storm bears down on Northeast

By The Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A winter storm was bearing down on the Northeast on Thursday, promising heavy snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures that will make commutes hazardous for the first work day of the new year.

Snow began falling overnight in parts of New England and New York, but the real brunt of the storm wasn't expected to hit until later Thursday. As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, according to the National Weather Service.

"There will be travel problems," said Hugh Johnson, a weather service meteorologist in Albany, N.Y. "It will be very cold."

Up to 14 inches of snow is forecast for the Boston area and the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Long Island - where 8 to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust up to 45 mph - from Thursday evening into Friday afternoon.

Some schools in New England closed schools pre-emptively, cities issued on-street parking bans and homeless shelters were expected to fill beyond capacity.

The storm dropped up to a foot of snow on parts of Michigan and 6 inches or more in Illinois, prompting hundreds of flight cancellations Wednesday into and out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com. About 1,000 U.S. flights were canceled for Thursday, with O'Hare and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International most affected.

Authorities said the weather may have been a factor in a fatal crash Wednesday evening involving a pickup and a bus carrying casino patrons in Indiana. Police said the truck's driver was killed and 15 bus passengers were injured in the collision on a snow-covered and slushy highway in Rolling Prairie.

Sections of interior southern New England and New York could get up to a foot of snow by the time the storm moves out, with forecasts generally calling for 6 to 12 inches. New York City, likely to see 3 to 7 inches, issued a snow alert. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the city's commuters to leave their cars at home in case major highways are closed for Thursday's evening rush hour.

"We are looking at a serious storm situation," Cuomo said.

Although lesser amounts of snow were forecast to the south, Philadelphia and parts of southern New Jersey were expected to see 3 to 7 inches of blowing, drifting snow.

In Toms River, N.J., Jonas Caldwell said he was prepared for whatever the storm might bring.

"Santa brought me a snow blower, and I've got rock salt for the ice, so now I'm just waiting for the storm," he said while grabbing a coffee at a convenience store.

Caldwell, an investment adviser, said he could work from home if necessary, but he was hoping that wouldn't be the case.

"There are too many distractions at home," he said. "But I won't be stupid ... If it gets as bad as they say it will be, or looks like it will, I'll be staying put."

In Hartford, Hal Guy, of nearby Glastonbury, was shopping for snow shovels - three, to be exact.

"We broke a couple in the last storm," he said. "We have four kids, so, three shovels, and we still have a little one back home."

Guy said three of his kids, girls ages 8, 10 and 12, have been out of school for two weeks for the holidays and hope to get a couple more days off with the snow.

Over in Maine, where some communities are still recovering from a recent ice storm that cut power to more than 100,000 customers, people seemed prepared for more winter weather.

Kelly St. Denis, of Auburn, went skiing Wednesday at the Sunday River ski area with family and friends. She said it's been cold but the skiing has been good.

"Hey, it's winter in Maine," she said. "We go with it."

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