HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A snow and ice storm headed for the Northeast is expected to slow weekend travel by air, rail and highway and has utilities and airports on alert.
The National Weather Service said 6 to 12 inches of snow are expected from Saturday to Sunday in New England. It said up to 14 inches are possible along the Maine coast but as little as 2 inches on Cape Cod. Areas north and west of New York City and interior Pennsylvania could get 8 inches or more.
Sleet and freezing rain are expected.
The snow is expected to begin spreading from southwest to northeast early Saturday.
A saltwater solution applied to roads before storms won't work now because temperatures are too low and the saltwater would freeze, said Kevin Nursick, spokesman at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
However, crews have treated highways before recent snowfalls with salt, helping to keep snow from bonding. And the storm will not affect work day commutes.
"The timing is pretty good coming on a weekend," Nursick said.
Not so for retailers, who have less than two weeks before Christmas to clear their shelves and face the prospect of losing critical weekend sales.
Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said consumers likely will shop online. And the weekend before Christmas gives retailers and shoppers another opportunity after this weekend.
"If a big storm hits around the 21st, 22nd, it will be a completely different story," Grannis said.
Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for Boston's Logan Airport, said he expects the brunt of the storm Saturday night but will evaluate conditions as forecasts change.
"At some point, we'll start calling in more staff," he said.
Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, which serves electric and gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, said extra crews would be available beginning overnight Saturday to respond to outages.
And Metro-North Railroad, which runs trains between New York City and suburban Connecticut, Long Island and New York's Hudson Valley, said on its website it may reduce or suspend service depending on the severity of the weather.
It cautioned that snow and subfreezing temperatures can create moisture that could freeze brake lines, door mechanisms, switches and signals.
In Pennsylvania, two state high school football championship games were moved from Saturday to Sunday because of a predicted 5 to 8 inches of snow.
John Wallace, a spokesman at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., said airport officials were meeting with vendors and airlines to assess the impact of the storm. But he said he wasn't worried.
"It's New England. It's the wintertime," he said. "I think we're pretty well ready for whatever is headed our way."