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BOSTON (AP) -- Snow began falling across the Northeast on Friday, ushering in what was predicted to be a huge, possibly historic blizzard and sending residents scurrying to stock up on food and gas up their cars. The storm could dump 1 to 3 feet of snow from New York City to Boston and beyond. Even before the first snowflake had fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other towns and cities in New England and upstate New York towns canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 3,700 flights through Saturday, with the disruptions certain to ripple across the U.S. "This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving." The heaviest snowfall was expected Friday night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 75 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October. Boston could get 2 to 3 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 14 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 2 to 5 inches. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick banned all traffic from roads after 4 p.m., believed to be the state's first such ban since the blizzard of 1978. In the southeastern Massachusetts town of Whitman, where up to 2 1/2 feet of snow was forecast, public works crews were clearing crosswalk signs, trash barrels and anything else that might impede plows later in the day. "We've had instances where they have predicted something big and it's petered out," said Dennis Smith, a public works employee. "I don't think this is going to be one of those times." Smith's partner, Bob Trumbull, sounded a note of optimism, saying the relative lack of snow earlier this winter would make this storm easier to clean up. "At least there is room for this snow. There are no snowbanks so we will have a place to put it," Trumbull said. Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine Friday morning in Cumberland, as 6 inches blanketed the area. A New Jersey town hit hard by Superstorm Sandy issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas that are still recovering from that storm. Residents in flood-prone sections of Brick Township were also urged to move their cars to higher ground by 5 p.m.