A gigantic midwinter storm buried the Northeast in snow Saturday, leaving behind a debilitated and disoriented region digging through plump white drifts and reeling against gale-force winds.
Painting a white landscape from Maine to New York, the storm expressed itself much as weather forecasters had predicted. New York City eluded the storm’s worst bite, and muffled-up pedestrians trooped along slushy sidewalks as insouciantly as after any matter-of-fact winter snowfall. But points to the north and east were battered hard.
More than 3 feet of snow fell on parts of Connecticut, and more than 2 feet accumulated on Long Island and in Massachusetts, causing coastal flooding that forced evacuations of some Massachusetts communities.
Thousands of people shivered without power in biting cold temperatures. Wind gusts that eclipsed 80 mph cut power lines and toppled trees.
The storm, spawned by the collision of two weather systems, touched more than 40 million people, though early reports suggested it accounted for only a handful of deaths.
For many areas, ‘‘this storm will rank in the top five of recorded snowstorms,’’ said David Stark, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Suffolk County, Long Island. Outside his office, measurements have been taken since 1949, and this storm beat them all with 30.9 inches.
The National Weather Service received reports of flooding up and down the eastern coast of Massachusetts, especially in those areas just north and south of Boston. Water carrying slabs of ice sloshed through the streets and lapped against houses. The National Guard was dispatched to assist in evacuations.
On Long Island, the storm barreled in so quickly Friday night that hundreds abandoned their cars as roads became impassable, even with snowplows working furiously. Scores of cars including tow trucks, semis and even county snowplows were strewn about and stuck in the snow along North Ocean Avenue in Brookhaven, Long Island, which had received 30.3 inches by 6 a.m.
‘‘God was kind last night because it was a terribly dangerous situation,’’ said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York. ‘‘Many people got very lucky.’’
States of emergency were declared in five states. The governor of Massachusetts banned travel on all roads as night fell Friday, an order that remained in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut reported cars stranded across his state, despite orders to stay off the roads, and said several people needed to be treated for hypothermia after spending hours trapped in their cars.