BOSTON (REUTERS) - The US North-east is preparing for yet another blizzard,which looks set to hit parts of New England that are 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, the National Weather Service said.
In Boston, snow fell hard in late afternoon on Saturday, paused for an early evening lull and then picked up again. Forecasters predicted a second pause before snow and winds start again during the night.
Massachusetts Governor 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 to hit early Sunday morning.
"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.
He asked residents to stay off the roads on Sunday, when public transport would also be suspended.
About 600 members of the National Guard are helping out during the weekend blizzard, Mr Baker 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 120kmh.
Boston has already received about 1.8m of snow since late January and set a record for accumulations in a single week. The city is now bracing for as much as 36 cm of fresh powder.
For many retailers and restaurants, the Valentine's Day arrival of the storm was their worst nightmare.
"This was really going to be gangbuster weekend," said Mr 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 1,300 flights cancelled in the United States as of Saturday afternoon, 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 29 deg C on Monday, with a wind chill of minus 37 deg C predicted for western Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said.
As the storms keep coming, Boston has struggled to find places to put all the snow. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said on Thursday that the city was relying on 10 local "dumping grounds, called snow farms, while seeking more.
The city also borrowed two snow melters from New York City in preparation for the weekend onslaught.
For some Bostonians, who pride themselves on their resilience, the weather was simply one more battle to be won.
"We're salty New Englanders," said Mr Cassinelli, the restaurateur. "You have to keep fighting."