Forecasters expect heavy snow in the Midwest the Northeast, and airlines are already bracing for canceled flights. Meteorologist Kelly Cass reports.
By M. Alex Johnson, staff writer, NBC News
Some of the U.S.’s biggest cities braced for what’s expected to be another mammoth snowfall and blizzard-like conditions in the Midwest and the Northeast — with as much as a foot and a half forecast through Friday.
Winter storm warnings stretched from Chicago through the New York tri-state region into New England — affecting an area home to more than 100 million people.
Snow began to fall in Boston, the first major city on the East Coast to be hit, at around 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a long-duration event,” said Michael Palmer, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. “The wind is going to whip around the snow and reduce the visibility, creating near-blizzard conditions in Boston, much of Connecticut and then down maybe as far south as New Jersey and even New York City.”
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island in New York beginning at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, predicting inch-an-hour snow with 45 mph winds during the worst of it Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a pretty significant storm, which will cause major travel disruption for a lot of people early in the new year,” said Dave Houtz, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. “Any untreated roads will be a real mess.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that travel would be tricky in the coming days.
“We are telling people, prepare for road closings and take mass transit. Especially tomorrow,” he told reporters in a Wednesday conference call about the storm.
In New York City, which was warned to expect 5 to 8 inches of snow through Friday, the administration of newly minted Mayor Bill DeBlasio said it would do its best to keep outdoor subway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains moving, calling out the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ice-busting equipment.
Bus riders might not be so lucky: If roads become impassable, bus service will be suspended, the MTA said.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino — in his last official act in office — pre-emptively declared a snow emergency for Thursday and closed the city’s schools Friday as weather models pointed to up to 18 inches of new snow.
“What a New Year’s gift, to receive one last snowstorm as mayor,” Menino said Wednesday.
Buffalo was also predicted to get a 12- to 18-inch wallop, and accumulations of 8 to 12 inches were expected in areas of Maine and Vermont farther north.
What changed the forecast so drastically from Tuesday, when meteorologists said the storm wouldn’t be a big deal, was the expected convergence of three separate low pressure systems roaring in from the south and the east.
They’re hauling warm, wet air on a course straight for the frigid Northeast, said Greg Postrel, a forecaster for The Weather Channel.
“That’s setting up for a big snowstorm for New England,” Postrel said — “big” as in near-zero visibility and howling winds with wind chills well below zero.
The storm system was already walloping Detroit, which were under several inches of snow Wednesday, with 5 to 8 inches more on the way.
The main part of the snowfall had moved on from Chicago, but The Weather Channel’s Palmer warned that winds there would pick up on Thursday morning.
And the city was set to experience bitterly cold weather in the coming days, warned NBC Chicago meteorologist Cheryl Scott.
More than 600 flights due in or out of Chicago’s O’Hare International on Wednesday had been canceled by 10 p.m. ET, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
“It’s beautiful. It’s like a white Christmas all over again,” Rob Becht of South Bend, Ind., which was expected to get as much as 3 more inches of snow overnight on top of the several inches already on the ground.
Noah Graham / Getty Images Contributor
An ice crew member shovels snow Wednesday during the 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I’m just snow-blowing the sidewalks for the block,” Becht told NBC station WNDU of South Bend. “I bought this expensive blower a couple years ago — why not take it out for a run?”
The snow also didn’t deter hockey fans — it’s a game played on ice, after all — in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs drew a world-record crowd of 105,491 for the annual Winter Classic outdoor game on Wednesday.
Temperatures at Michigan Stadium were in the low teens as snow fell steadily over the ice, with a wind chill of zero. Crews simply shoveled the snow off the ice during stops in play, and the Leafs ended up winning 3-2 in an overtime shootout.
Reuters contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Wed Jan 1, 2014 11:28 PM EST