The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency, pleading with residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a major snowstorm bore down on the northeastern US, delaying or canceling thousands of flights.
The first major winter storm of the year brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with parts of New England, including Boston, bracing for up to 36cm of snow by yesterday morning.
“As this winter storm unfolds, bringing heavy snow and high winds to many parts of the state, I strongly urge all New Yorkers to exercise caution, avoid travel and stay indoors,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Amid flight cancelations that hit just as many travelers were returning from holiday breaks, officials at Boston’s Logan International Airport said that up to a quarter of its scheduled flights had been canceled on Thursday afternoon and evening.
However, Ed Freni, aviation director of Massport, the state agency that operates Logan, said that two runways remained open and that he expected the airport to continue operating as long as it was safe to do so.
Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie both ordered state offices closed yesterday for non-essential employees, saying they expected the worst to hit between late on Thursday and early yesterday morning. The state of New Jersey said public schools would be closed in Hoboken and Jersey City yesterday.
“The real action is going to get cranked up this evening [Thursday] and during the overnight hours. We’ll have heavy snow, windy conditions, reduced visibilities,” said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The storm posed the first major challenge to new New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Problems from digging out from snowstorms have been political havoc for mayors in the US’ biggest city for decades.
After his first emergency management meeting, De Blasio pleaded with New Yorkers stay off the streets.
“This is the first of many times I will say: ‘Please stay indoors. Stay out of your cars. If you don’t need to go out, please don’t go out,’” he said.
The powerful storm forced the cancellation of nearly 2,500 US flights, with another 7,000 delayed. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Newark’s Liberty International Airport were hit the worst, according to FlightAware, a Web site that tracks air travel.
The weather service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to levels 11?C to 16?C below normal, with record lows possible yesterday.
Forecast snowfall varied widely, with Washington expected to see under 2cm, Philadelphia and New York 10cm to 20cm and Boston 20cm to 36cm.
Even before the worst of the storm hit, slippery road conditions made driving a hazard in many storm-hit areas.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Chris Behm spent an hour trying to reach a vocational training center for developmentally disabled people where he works, before calling the commute off and urging his 19 employees to stay at home.
“It was terrible on all of the roads and there is more weather on its way,” Behm said. “It just wasn’t worth it to open and possibly kill someone.”