East Coast Blizzard Grounds Flights

A storm along the U.S. East Coast brought snow and wind chills to the region, threatening blizzard conditions and disrupting travel amid highway closures and thousands of flight cancellations.

Boxford, north of Boston, received 21 inches (53 centimeters) of snow as of 9:12 p.m. yesterday, while New York City’s Central Park got 5 inches as of 3:45 a.m., the National Weather Service said. Boston may receive as much as 14 inches and its western and southern suburbs might get as much as 18 inches, said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

The storm contributed to 1,377 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. being canceled and 287 delayed as of 5:35 a.m. New York time, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. About 2,400 flights were canceled yesterday. All New York City public schools will be closed today due to severe weather conditions, according to an e-mailed statement from schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

“It’s a quick hitter but high impact,” Buttrick said by telephone. “It’s far enough offshore that it will give all of southern New England snow. The worst of it is going to come overnight and the morning rush hour.”

Much of the region may expect some snow accumulation - and some areas such as eastern Massachusetts and western New York may see almost 16 inches. Image: NOAA
Much of the region may expect some snow accumulation – and some areas such as eastern Massachusetts and western New York may see almost 16 inches. Image: NOAA

Blowing and drifting of powdery snow will make travel conditions “extremely dangerous,” the weather service said in a blizzard warning, adding that “strong winds and very cold wind chills” are expected through this afternoon. The threat of whiteout conditions prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to order the Long Island Expressway closed at midnight.

‘Dangerous’ Temperatures

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered state offices to remain closed today, warning that temperatures outside were “very, very dangerous.” Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared states of emergency. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, in his second day in the office, said “we are ready for whatever hits us.”

Operations at Boston Logan International Airport were winding down as the storm intensified, Ed Freni, director of aviation at the Massachusetts Port Authority, said by telephone from Boston. Airlines were scheduled to shut operations by about 8 p.m. yesterday.

The airport will remain open during the storm and flight operations will probably resume before noon local time today, Freni said. Some airlines have posted departure times as early as 9:30 a.m., he said.

Coastal flooding closed roads in Massachusetts, including in Boston and Quincy. The state public transportation system will remain open today, Patrick said.

Voluntary Evacuations

Voluntary evacuations have been recommended in low-lying areas of Scituate and Duxbury, two coastal Massachusetts towns where high tides are expected as the brunt of the storm hits in hours to come, according to Patrick.

In Boston, New England’s largest city, Mayor Thomas Menino shuttered public schools and libraries, keeping City Hall open.

Connecticut state offices are set to open an hour later than usual today to give workers time to plow roads, Governor Dan Malloy said in a statement. In New Jersey, state court buildings and courthouses were ordered closed today.

New York City subway express service was halted because of snow, and the Metro-North rail line between New York City and Connecticut was scheduled to reduce service after 8 p.m. local time yesterday. New York City’s Office of Emergency Management issued an alert advising drivers to stay off the roads.

Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road will also run on reduced schedules today, offering about 60 percent of normal weekday trains, Cuomo said in an e-mailed statement.

New York

Two ferry services under contract to Metro-North, the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry and the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, will not run today. Hudson RailLink will operate on a special schedule. Amtrak canceled some trains between Boston and Washington.

Winter storm warnings and weather advisories stretched from Indiana to Maine and as far south as Georgia.

Philadelphia was forecast to receive 5 to 10 inches of snow, according to the weather service. In Cleveland, 8 to 10 inches were expected to fall and Pittsburgh may get 3 to 5.

The snow will be followed by a blast of frigid air that will drive temperatures down, Buttrick said. Readings across southern New England will range from 0 to minus 10 Fahrenheit (minus 17 to minus 23 Celsius), she said.

“The storm will pull away late Friday morning and then the real cold air starts settling in,” Buttrick said.

Wind Chill

New York is forecast to have a low of 7 degrees today. Boston may reach minus 5, Philadelphia 4 and Washington 13, according to the weather service.

“Temperatures like this, with the wind chill, are a very dangerous situation,” Patrick said. “The temperatures will be extreme. This is a serious hazard.”

The cold will extend from Canada deep into the U.S., said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Some of the coldest air since middle January 2009 is showing up in the Midwest late this weekend and early next week as highs in Chicago are forecast to remain below zero on Monday,” Rogers said.

Chicago is expected to have a high of minus 4 on Jan. 6, according to the National Weather Service.

While frigid air grips the Midwest, the East Coast may see some warmer conditions early next week. New York may reach a high of 46 on Jan. 6, and Boston may get to 49 to start the work week.

Buttrick said the warmer weather will probably mean the next storm that passes through, during the weekend, will arrive as rain. Readings will plunge again after that system passes, she said.

“Arctic air will rush in and we could get a flash freeze,” she said.

(With assistance from Konstantin Rozhnov in London, Naureen S. Malik in New York, Brendan Case in Mexico City, Terrence Dopp in Trenton and Ann Koh in Singapore. Editors: Stephen Voss, John Deane)