* Authorities warn of power outages, transport delays
* Region could see 12-18 inches of snow Monday-Wed
* NY governor activates state emergency ops center
By Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, March 13 Forecasters put the U.S. East
Coast from New York City to Boston on a blizzard watch starting
as early as Monday night, with authorities warning residents to
prepare for the possibility of widespread power outages, road
closures and flight disruptions.
Weather experts predicted the region could see 12 to 18
inches (30 to 45 cm) of wind-blasted snow from Monday to early
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced preparations for
the so-called Nor'easter storm, activating the state Emergency
Operations Center as of Monday night while also directing state
agencies to be on heightened alert.
"I encourage all New Yorkers in affected regions to plan
ahead and avoid any unnecessary travel as the storm progresses,"
Cuomo said in a statement, adding that commuters should expect
road closures, delays and cancellations.
The storm also raised the potential for power outages with
damaging winds across eastern Long Island and southeastern
Connecticut, the National Weather Service said.
Significant disruption to air travel in the region was also
anticipated with the storm.
Blowing snow and strong winds could lead to whiteout
conditions with visibility as poor as a quarter mile (400
meters), the service said. Sub-freezing temperatures were
forecast in the upper 20s Fahrenheit (-2 to -4 degrees Celsius).
New York City issued a snow alert for Monday night into
Tuesday, expecting snowfall rates of up to 2 to 4 inches per
hour Tuesday morning and afternoon, with gusts of up to 50 mph.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers that "besides the
snow, it will be cold," while officials recommended that people
avoid driving and use mass transit when possible.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was installing
hundreds of pieces of snow equipment at the three New York area
airports. Thousands of tons of salt and sand were prepared for
airport roads, parking lots, bridges and tunnels.
As some 50 million people along the Eastern Seaboard came
under storm or blizzard watches, Washington, D.C., which often
bogs down with even low levels of snow, was expecting 5 inches
(13 cm) and twice that in outlying areas.
The storm comes near the end of an unusually mild winter
along much of the East Coast, with below-normal snowfalls in
some areas, including New York City and Washington. It was the
warmest February on record in nearly the entire area, according
to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.
Last week in New York, temperatures hovered near 70 degrees
Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), according to Accuweather.com,
hitting 60 or higher on six days in February.
Meanwhile, in the western United States, the weather service
forecast potentially record-setting heat in Arizona, Colorado,
New Mexico and Utah, where temperatures were expected into the
90s (above 32 degrees Celsius) in some places.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Randy