Nightly News   |  February 07, 2013

Preps underway for potentially devastating storm

Snow and hurricane-force winds are slated to hit the Northeast this weekend. Residents in the tri-state area are scrambling to get ready after last year’s unusually dry and mild winter. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> busy evening on both of our coasts tonight. on the west coast in southern california , a nerve-racking and disconcerting day after three murders, two more people wounded and the word from police that one of their own, be an ex police officer , a military veteran, is targeting police officers . as a result, law enforcement there on a hair-trigger, and the state has been on alert all day. right now as we look live, the search is focused on the big bear ski area , bear mountain , in southern california . now, on the east coast , preparations are under way for a potentially history-making snowstorm. along the eastern seaboard on up to new england , it's happening the way the worst of the storms happen. two systems coming together, joining forces, blizzard warnings are posted across a wide area. 50 million americans in the path of this one before it's all over. it's where we begin tonight. meteorologist jim cantore of the weather channel is in boston. nbc's ron mott in mass. we begin there. ron , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening to you. a big rush on this story earlier today. they're expecting more tonight and in the morning as they head in to pick up things like shovels and batteries, flashlights, gas cans, ahead of what could be a top-ten winter storm of all-time. as this storm barrels eastward today, it dumped a lot of snow, in places like madison, wisconsin and chicago. where they're confused.

>> one day it's 60, the next day it's 20. but we're used to it. we can handle it, we're tough.

>> reporter: but it's the folks in the northeast whose mettle is about to be severely tested. for the first time in years. after an unusually mild and dry winter last season.

>> palms getting sweaty, the excitement starts to build.

>> reporter: from hartford to boston and elsewhere --

>> good you get a thunderstorm, you could end up with 27 inches of snow.

>> reporter: forecasters are sounding the alarm about what could be an historic storm. and those warnings were all the motivation many people needed to stock up on emergency supplies and a heavy dose of courage and patience.

>> gas light , shovel.

>> reporter: in brick township , new jersey, still recovering from superstorm sandy, nerves are frayed as they prepare again for storm surge .

>> just really scared. terrified.

>> reporter: at this boston area home depot , a much-needed shipment of ice melt arrived.

>> new england tonight is struggling with the worst snowfall in its history.

>> reporter: for many here, the looming storm brings back memories of the '78 blizzard that battered the region 35 years ago this week, dumping as much as 3 feet of snow, killing 100, stranding many more. fred bailis remembers it well.

>> it's a cliche, but it's a perfect storm . it hit right at rush hour, it continued and it dumped a lot of snow very fast.

>> reporter: city officials say they're ready for a wallop, loading sand and salt on to trucks, a fleet that could number 900 strong at the height of the storm. airlines are bracing for major travel disruptions throughout new england . 1,100 flights already cancelled.

>> we're hardened new englanders and used to these types of storms but want to remind everyone to use common sense. stay off the streets of our city. basically, stay home.

>> reporter: the morning rush should be okay. just flurries in the air. but this time tomorrow night, brian, forecasters say we could see snow coming down at the rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour.

>> ron mott starting us off. thanks, ron .