Free Press Journal

Snowstorm shuts down US East Coast, blankets New York


New York: New York City looked like a ghost town early today, blanketed by a snowstorm that disrupted life for tens of millions of people along the US East Coast.

Although the storm didn’t live up to expectations, New York had an almost eerie feel to it. No airplanes in the sky and no trains running underground made for an unexpected quiet. Light snow fell steadily early today in midtown Manhattan as a few municipal trucks rumbled down empty streets.

Forecasters originally warned the storm could be historic, bringing up to a metre of snow and punishing hurricane-force winds. But early today, they downgraded most of those numbers, saying Boston and the northeastern New England region would fare the worst, but even then not as bad as expected.

More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were cancelled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday. Schools and businesses let out early. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.

Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service said Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, could get the most snow, about half a meter. New York could see up to 50 centimetres, Hartford, Connecticut, up to half a meter), and Philadelphia and central New Jersey about 15 centimetres.

The National Weather Service over the weekend had issued a blizzard warning for a 400-kilometre swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions.

Yesterday, life abruptly stopped across the region as officials ordered workers to go home early, banned travel, closed bridges and tunnels, and assembled their biggest plowing crews.

Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: “People have to make smart decisions from this point on.”

New York City’s entire transit system was shut down. In New Jersey, plows and salt spreaders remained at work on the roads yesterday night in Ocean County, one of the coastal areas that was expected to be among the hardest hit. There was a coating of snow on the roads, but hardly any vehicles were travelling on them, as residents seemed content to stay indoors and monitor the storm in comfort.