A blizzard forecasters call “life-threatening” that may drop three feet of snow from New York to Boston has caused more than 1,800 flight cancellations and will likely block road and rail traffic, close schools and knock out power across the U.S. Northeast.
Northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and large parts of southern New England to Boston may receive as much as 36 inches (91 centimeters) of snow, the National Weather Service said.
A blizzard warning has been posted from New Jersey to Maine’s border with Canada.
Snow may fall so hard and fast that commuter rail, buses and subways could shut down before workers leave for home on Monday afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
“As a result, commuters should consider working from home on Monday if possible to avoid disruptions from likely road and public transportation closures,” Governor Cuomo said.
In addition to the blizzard warning, winter storm and weather advisories stretch from Indiana to Maine. As of 4:27 a.m. in New York, 1,810 flights had been canceled within, into, or out of the U.S., including 474 in and out of La Guardia Airport, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service.
“Snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour expected late Monday night into Tuesday morning,” the warning posted for New York said. “Life-threatening conditions and extremely dangerous travel due to heavy snowfall and strong winds with whiteout conditions. All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon.”
“We expect to have a serious problem on our hands,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Sunday. “We are facing one of the largest snowstorms in recorded history of this city.”
All city agencies are on high alert as New York sanitation workers try to maintain 6,000 miles of road, de Blasio said. He said residents should stay home Monday or leave work early if possible.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will bring on extra personnel who will work 12-hour shifts as it prepares to maintain operations at its airports, tunnels, bridges and train systems, according to an e-mailed statement.
Secondary roads may quickly become impassible and anyone traveling after Monday afternoon should have a winter survival kit in their car, according to the blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service.
New York City schools will be open Monday with anticipated closures on Tuesday, de Blasio said. Alternate side of street parking will be canceled.
The biggest snowstorm in New York’s history was in February 2006, when 26.9 inches fell, said Bob Oravec, of the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. The most that has fallen in a 24-hour period was 24.1 inches in the same storm.
While this storm may not break that record it will definitely shatter daily marks for Jan. 26, Oravec said. It will also be remembered because of the wind it unleashes.
“It is going to be a pretty high impact storm,” Oravec said.
Philadelphia may get 14 to 18 inches and Trenton could pick up as much as two feet, the weather service said.
“The system will deepen rapidly Monday through Tuesday,” said Brian Hurley, a weather prediction meteorologist.
Natural gas fell 4.6 percent to $2.850 per million British thermal units in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile at 4.49 a.m. The heating fuel plunged 32 percent last year.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy urged people to have at least three days of food for themselves and their pets on hand before the storm starts. The weather service said people shouldn’t travel after Monday afternoon across New England.
Amtrak plans to operate a normal schedule Monday and will reevaluate as the storm develops, the company said Sunday in its latest advisory on its website. The U.S. national passenger railroad operates the Acela train between Boston, New York and Washington.
The greatest impact on Boston commuter rail and rapid transit will probably occur on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said on its website. The transit authority may reduce its schedules at the height of the storm.
A high wind watch has also been posted for Cape Cod. Gusts may reach 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers) with sustained winds of 45 mph, the weather service said.
“Powerful winds may result in downed trees and power outages,” the weather service said. “This is especially true where heavy wet snow accumulates adding to the potential for wind damage.”
Consumers Energy in Michigan said it will send more than 50 workers to New York to help crews there deal with power outages.
Clouds, along with light rain and snow had already begun in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania Sunday with snow forecast to overspread the entire Northeast through the day Monday.
“The heaviest snow won’t come until Monday night into Tuesday,” said Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.
The storm was moving across the U.S. most of Sunday, bringing 2 to 4 inches of snow to the Ohio Valley.
As it comes east, the low pressure system at its heart will be blocked by the Appalachian Mountains.
At that point a secondary low pressure system will reform in the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia and North Carolina. This will be the storm that rapidly strengthens and covers the Northeast with snow, Hurley said.
“When they take that trajectory they tend to reform and do so explosively,” Hurley said.
The process of reforming the storm also adds an element of uncertainty to the forecast. If the storm strengthens more rapidly, snow totals in Washington and Baltimore could rise, Hurley said. In Washington, 2 to 4 inches may fall, while Baltimore could receive 5 to 10 inches, according to the weather service.
If the storm’s track to the north hugs the coast more, then warmer air and rain may keep snow totals on the lower end in the large cities along Interstate 95, including New York, he said.
Through most of January, the Northeast U.S. has been spared major snowstorms. A small system moved through during Saturday.
“As dull has it had been for the Eastern Seaboard for the last couple of weeks that is going to change,” Hurley said.
With assistance from Kelly Bit in New York and Lars Paulsson in London.
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