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New Englanders, still digging out, brace for another major snowstorm

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch from Cape Cod to coastal Maine ahead of a storm expected to intensify Saturday night and last into Sunday.

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    Pedestrians walk among mounds of snow Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, along a street in downtown Boston. Another winter storm that could bring an additional foot or more of snow to some areas is forecast for the region beginning Saturday evening.
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Exasperated New Englanders still digging out from three major storms that left 6 feet or more of snow in many areas are bracing for what's expected to be another punishing blast of winter this weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard watch from Cape Cod to coastal Maine ahead of a storm expected to intensify Saturday night and last into Sunday, bringing bone-chilling cold behind it.

Wind gusts could howl at 70 mph and north-facing coastal areas could suffer moderate flooding and beach erosion from the "monster storm," said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

"Snow amounts will not be as much as the previous big storms, but still, when you have 8 to 14 inches of snow, wind driven-snow, the cold air and the snow that is already there it's probably going to be very difficult for a lot of people," he said.

If there was a silver lining, Simpson said, the track of the storm was likely to stay far enough off shore to avoid crippling impacts and reduce the amount of snowfall inland. It will also hit over a holiday weekend, which could minimize travel effects, though it could disrupt some Valentine's Day plans.

The northern New England coast could see greater snowfall totals — with up 2 feet in Down East Maine. Officials warned that hurricane-force wind gusts could lead to power outages.

The Coast Guard had an airplane flying in the Gulf of Maine broadcasting a warning to mariners about the impending storm, said Lt. Scott McCann.

The forecast added to the urgency Friday of crews working to remove massive snow piles that have clogged streets and triggered numerous roof collapses.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called up hundreds of National Guard troops to assist with snow removal, and the Hanscom Air Force base outside Boston became a staging area for heavy equipment pouring in from other states to help in the effort.

Patricia Vinchesi, town administrator in Scituate, said a state of emergency would go into effect at midnight in the coastal community where portions of the seawall were breached during a late January storm.

"We've sort of been in reaction and recovery mode and before we can get any appreciable degree of recovery we are in reaction mode again," Vinchesi said of the coming storm.

The National Guard helped dig out 700 fire hydrants in recent days and workers from the New York Department of Transportation were lending a hand to the snow removal effort on Friday, she said. The state gave Scituate permission to dump snow into the ocean because there was nowhere else to put it.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said two machines capable of melting 135 tons of snow per hour arrived from New York City on Thursday, along with backhoes, dump trucks, and front-end loaders from neighboring states.

The spate of storms have caused major disruptions for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, as snow and freezing temperatures overwhelmed aging equipment on the nation's oldest public transit system.

Walsh on Thursday suggested the MBTA shut down for the weekend but reversed course on Friday and said closing the system would "pose an incredible hardship to workers and people living throughout Boston."

A spokesman for the MBTA said the system would operate Saturday but he could make no assurances for the rest of the weekend.

If the snow wasn't enough, New Englanders also had bitter cold to look forward to in the coming days, with lows of minus 10 degrees forecast in some parts of the region Sunday night.

School superintendents in Massachusetts were spared the decision of whether to order more snow days, as school vacation was already scheduled for next week. Some families planning getaways to warmer destinations moved up their flights from Boston's Logan International Airport Friday to avoid being grounded by the approaching storm.

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Associated Press writers Mark Pratt in Boston and David Sharp, in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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