Major winter storm cripples much of Northeast U.S.
Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay at home.
The Associated Press
Here is a roundup from The Associated Press concerning the snow storm that has crippled travel in much of the Northeast United States.
Professional truck drivers are encouraged to stay put where possible, but if they must travel, do so slowly and with extreme caution.
BOSTON — A winter storm slammed into the U.S. Northeast with howling winds and frigid cold, dumping nearly 2 feet of snow in some parts and whipping up blizzard-like conditions Friday.
U.S. airlines canceled more than 2,300 flights nationwide ahead of the storm, especially at New York and Boston airports. By Friday morning, about 1,600 flights were canceled nationwide, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.
Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay at home. Hundreds of schools were shut down in Boston and New York, extending the holiday break for tens of thousands of students.
"This is nothing to be trifled with," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."
Some major highways in New York state were shut down overnight, and some commuter trains around New York City were operating on a reduced schedule. Amtrak planned to run trains on all of its Northeast lines on Friday but operate on a modified schedule, spokeswoman Christina Leeds said.
Forecasters said temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing, and wind chill readings could hit minus 10 Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius).
Outreach teams were searching streets in New York City and Boston for homeless people at risk of freezing to death.
A worker at a suburban Philadelphia salt storage facility was killed Thursday when a 100-foot pile of road salt fell and crushed him. Police said the man was trapped while operating a backhoe. There was no immediate word on what may have caused the accident
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered nonessential state workers to stay home Friday. State offices and courthouses were closed. State offices were also closed in Massachusetts.
The weather service issued a blizzard warning for Cape Cod, coastal areas north and south of Boston and part of Maine as well as New York's Long Island, where up to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust to 45 mph.
The heavy weather began rolling in Thursday, just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation's largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office.
De Blasio, who in 2010 criticized predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said 1,700 snowplows and 450 salt spreaders were hitting the streets in New York City.
"We have to get it right, no question about it," de Blasio said. "We are focused like a laser on protecting this city."
The snowstorm worked its way east from the Midwest, where it dropped up to 17 inches of snow in parts of Chicago and prompted the cancellation Thursday of hundreds of flights at both of the city's airports.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont residents are experiencing some dangerously low temperatures with some light snow.
By 6 a.m. Friday, it was 8 degrees below zero in Burlington, with a wind chill of 29 below zero.
The National Weather Service says there's a good chance of more snow showers Friday morning, with not much accumulation.
The cold weather, however, is another story. A wind chill advisory is in effect through Friday afternoon. Temperatures will be struggling to make it above zero. Wind chill values are expected to be as low as 34 below zero with wind gusts up to about 20 mph.
Strong north winds have led to the closing the Lake Champlain Transportation Company ferry between Charlotte, Vt., and Essex, N.Y. The three-mile trip generally takes about 25 minutes.
Icy roads led to a car crash Thursday night in the town of St. Albans, in which rescue workers pulled an infant up a steep embankment. WCAX-TV reports the baby, and a man and woman in the car were taken to a hospital for evaluation. The extent of their injuries wasn't known.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Traffic is moving again on the New York State Thruway in the Hudson Valley after the highway was closed between Albany and New York City because of the weather.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday afternoon that Interstate 87 between Exit 24 in Albany and the Bronx would be closed at midnight because of hazardous driving conditions caused by the severe storm hitting the region.
The Thruway reopened for passenger vehicles at 5 a.m. Friday and reopened for commercial vehicles at 8 a.m.
The state police Thruway detail says a few accidents have occurred north of New York City, but troopers say no serious crashes have been reported.
Meanwhile, New York transportation officials say Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders has reopened to all traffic as of 8 a.m. Friday.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The first winter storm of 2014 scattered up to 8 inches in some parts of Pennsylvania as residents were barely pushing away the snow and ice before frigid temperatures and strong, bone-chilling winds set in.
The state's biggest school districts, including Scranton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading, canceled classes Friday, and Gov. Tom Corbett told state employees to report two hours late. Schools in Erie, where heavy snow is routine, remained open.
Maintenance workers and plow drivers were working overtime.
They include John Kadunce, who was gassing up at a convenience store in Creighton, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. He was on his way in to his job supervising maintenance at a suburban Pittsburgh office park at 5 a.m., about an hour earlier than usual, to plow the parking lots and shovel the walks, and he was unhappy with the condition of the main road.
"They should really salt this road here," Kadunce said. "A truck just went by and it's not in very good shape."
Northern and eastern Pennsylvania saw 6 to 8 inches of snow, while southern and western Pennsylvania saw 2 to 5 inches, the National Weather Service said.
In Philadelphia, dozens of flights were canceled at Philadelphia International Airport, and Interstate 95 southbound reopened during the morning rush after a jackknifed tractor trailer near the airport had closed it down for about four hours.
Some pre-dawn temperatures were in the single digits. Highways were plowed, with slushy or icy passing lanes, and many secondary roads were plowed but icy. The state highway department reduced speed limits to 45 mph on major roadways in eastern and central Pennsylvania and urged drivers to avoid unnecessary travel.
Meanwhile, forecasters warned that gusts of up to 30 mph could bring wind chills to minus 25 degrees, cold enough to cause frostbite in about 30 minutes or less.
The National Weather Service said people should dress warmly to avoid hypothermia and cover all exposed skin.
New York City
NEW YORK — New York City public schools were closed Friday after up to 7 inches of snow fell by morning in the first snowstorm of the winter — and the first test of new Mayor Bill de Blasio hours after he was sworn in.
"It would have been nice to have a calm first day, but we have snow on our mind, and we are focused like a laser on protecting this city and getting everyone ready," de Blasio said Thursday about the snow barreling toward the city.
Newly appointed Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made the decision to call a snow day for 1.1 million students shortly before 5 a.m.
The Federal Aviation Administration said John F. Kennedy International Airport was closed at 6:12 a.m. due to snow but was expected to reopen at 8:30 a.m.
The snowstorm came about three years after de Blasio criticized predecessor Michael Bloomberg for failing to lead a quick cleanup in all parts of the city. Days passed before de Blasio's Brooklyn block was cleared.
"I intend to be on top of the action," the new mayor vowed.
With the frigid, windy storm approaching from upstate New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered three major highways extending from Long Island to Albany closed overnight Thursday. The Thruway between Albany and the Bronx reopened for passenger vehicles at 5 a.m. Friday and was scheduled to reopen to commercial vehicles at 8 a.m. The Long Island Expressway was set to reopen at 8 a.m. Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders also were to remain closed to commercial and passenger vehicles until 8 a.m.
The governor's unusual decision came as New York City and its northern suburbs were under a winter storm warning and Long Island was under a blizzard warning, with wind gusts up to 45 mph and up 10 inches of snow predicted by the time the storm ends sometime between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday.
The National Weather Service said 8 to 10 inches of snow could hit the city, and areas from Buffalo to Albany were expecting up to 14 inches.
The storm dumped up to 18 inches of snow in the Rochester area by late Thursday, while up to 14 inches was reported Friday morning in parts of eastern New York.
About 5 inches had fallen in Central Park by 4 a.m. and as much as 7 inches in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. Parts of Long Island got 7.3 inches by early Friday.
"This is nothing to be trifled with," Cuomo said, declaring a state of emergency statewide. "People should seriously consider staying in their homes."
The New York City Office of Emergency Management issued a hazardous travel advisory into Friday, warning that roads likely would be icy and snow would continue to drift.
"Residents should drive slowly, monitor weather and traffic, use major streets or highways, and keep the name and number of at least one local towing service," OEM said in a statement.
A weather service forecaster said cold temperatures would be as significant as the snowfall because of wind chills. The agency said wind chills would remain below zero throughout the day.
Outreach teams were searching New York City streets for homeless people at risk of freezing to death. The Department of Homeless Services guarantees shelter when temperatures reach 32 degrees or below.
"It's a two-story storm," said meteorologist Joseph Pollina. "The snow and the cold." He said a high of 15 was predicted for Friday in New York City, which would make it the coldest day there since Jan. 10, 2004.
Meanwhile, transportation agencies and utilities prepared to tussle with the weather.
The Long Island Rail Road's alcohol-spraying train, which fights freezing on switches, was loaded up, and the subway system's outdoor platforms were salted. The railroad was running on a weekend schedule; Metro-North was on a Saturday schedule. Chains were placed on city buses Friday morning so they would not get stuck in drifts.
De Blasio said 1,700 plows and 450 salt spreaders would be on the streets. He did not declare a snow emergency.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has "people ready if needed to dig out switches," said spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. Also, "We have turned on switch heaters, which are like electric blankets for the track."
Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said equipment in place at airports and bridges included melters that can liquefy snow.
Kennedy and LaGuardia airports experienced hundreds of delays and cancellations on Thursday and were ready for even more on Friday.
Con Ed spokesman Sidney Alvarez said the electric utility was expecting the snowfall to be powdery, rather than wet and heavy. "But with any type of snow you're looking at extra weight on branches that can snap and bring power lines down."
PSEG Long Island, which just took over responsibility for the island's electric grid on Wednesday, said the wind would add to the challenge of keeping the power on.
"We're really worried about the gusts," said spokesman Paul Rosengren. "When they're 40-50 mph you have a danger of trees or limbs coming down on the power lines."
Jamesie Killeen, walking his dog Nutley in the Bronx, said he heard a foot of snow could fall, but decided to be optimistic.
"Maybe this will be it for the year," he said.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware state and county government offices and public schools are closed after a winter storm dumped three to seven inches of snow around the state.
The National Weather Service posted gale warnings in effect along the coast and parts of the Delaware Bay through Friday evening. Winter storm warnings remain in effect statewide. Sussex County received about three inches of snow and four to seven inches fell around the rest of the state.
Transportation officials warn that roads are not clear and they're are asking people to stay home if they don't have to go out. DelDOT officials say crews have been clearing major roads overnight, but winds and drifting snow will mean plows must return to previously cleared major roads, delaying work on secondary roads.
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