Flights Grounded as Blizzard Slams Northeast

Image: Flights Grounded as Blizzard Slams Northeast An ice crew sprays de-icing solution on a Southwest Airlines plane during a winter storm in Boston on Jan. 2.

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 09:06 PM

 

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Snow and bitter cold closed state offices and highways and grounded thousands of planes as a storm building along the East Coast threatened blizzard conditions from New York to Maine.

Boston may receive as much as 14 inches (36 centimeters) of snow and its western and southern suburbs might get as much as 18 inches, said Kim Buttrick, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts. New York City will probably get 5 to 9, the weather service said.

Blizzard conditions are possible along the Massachusetts coastline and Long Island, the agency said. The threat of “whiteout” conditions prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to order the Long Island Expressway closed at midnight.

“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.”

The storm contributed to 2,073 flights in the U.S. being scrubbed and 6,448 delayed as of 7:31 p.m. New York time, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. About 820 flights were canceled for tomorrow.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered state offices to remain closed tomorrow, 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.”

Boston Snow

Boston had received 6.7 inches as of 3:13 p.m. local time, while Topsfield, north of the city, had 12.2 inches on the ground by 4:38 p.m., according to the weather service.

Operations at Boston Logan International Airport were winding down as the storm intensifies, 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.

The airport will remain open during the storm and flight operations will probably resume before noon local time tomorrow, 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 tomorrow, 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 tomorrow 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 tomorrow.

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. 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 tomorrow, 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 tomorrow. Hudson RailLink will operate on a special schedule.

Amtrak canceled some trains between Boston and Washington.

Natural gas futures rebounded in New York from the lowest level in more than two weeks as the cold stoked heating-fuel demand. Spot wholesale electricity climbed from Boston to Chicago and Dallas as use surpassed forecasts.

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

Philadelphia was forecast to receive 4 to 8 inches, according to the weather service. In Cleveland, 8 to 10 inches were expected to fall and Pittsburgh may get 3 to 5.

Cold Air

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.

New York is forecast to have a low of 7 degrees tomorrow. 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.

Warmer Outlook

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.

 

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