N.Y. Region Revives With Travel Bans Lifted as Blizzard Fizzles

By Esmé E. Deprez and | January 27, 2015

The New York region lurched back to life after a storm advertised as a potentially life-threatening blizzard ended up as a mundane winter snowfall.

Travel bans for automobiles in New York and New Jersey were lifted and New York City’s subways were to run again this morning as the region dusted off what Mayor Bill de Blasio had warned would be “a storm like we’ve never seen before.”

New York City may get no more than a foot by the time the nor’easter tapers off Tuesday evening, compared with a forecast of as much as 23.8 inches, according to Steve Lavoie, a staff meteorologist at Hometown Forecast Services in Nashua, New Hampshire. Boston may top out at 2 feet, compared with the 30 inches seen by the National Weather Service.

“Better safe than sorry,” de Blasio said in an interview on CNN.

Governor Chris Christie lifted a New Jersey travel ban at 7:30 a.m. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted his order limiting movement in New York City and Westchester, Nassau, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Ulster counties.

The National Weather Service downgraded its assessment to a winter storm warning. In the update at 5:21 a.m. New York time, the service expected blizzard conditions in Connecticut and Long Island but not New York City or northern New Jersey.

Still, no flights were scheduled at LaGuardia Airport for Tuesday, and minimal service was expected at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey said Monday night on its website.

Frozen Metropolis

All trans-Hudson crossings, including the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the George Washington Bridge were shut, with only emergency vehicles allowed. Amtrak suspended service for New England and scaled it back south of New York.

As the snow began to fall Monday, regional activity ground to a standstill. The travel bans took effect shortly before midnight in New York, while New Jersey and Connecticut cleared roads for emergency vehicles and hundreds of snow plows and salt spreaders.

Heeding predictions of whiteouts and hurricane-force winds reaching 75 miles per hour near the coast, government officials shut highways, bridges, transit systems and schools from Maine to New Jersey. Broadway shows and sporting events were canceled. Residents made last-minute bodega dashes to stock up on food and water.

Blanketed Manhattan

Manhattan’s streetscape resembled a shaken snow globe as the flakes eddied among the skyscrapers.

This morning, the customary clank and clamor of Midtown was replaced with muffled quiet. The few figures on the street wielded shovels and blowers and a one-inch pink ribbon blocked a subway entrance that on most days would disgorge thousands of commuters.

The city became passable block by block. By 6 a.m., the sidewalk at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue was clear and salted so that Tiffany & Co. could resume supplying would-be grooms with the necessary equipment. Yet north at 64th Street, a walker could have the rare experience of leaving tracks in virgin snow in front of the Indian consulate.

New York has probably received most of the snow it will get, said Richard Bann, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“New York was on the knife edge of the dry side,” Bann said.

Battening Down

The heaviest snow in the area fell on Long Island. As of 5 a.m., 18.2 inches had fallen at Islip Airport and 15 inches at the weather service office in Upton, New York. At Forest Hills in Queens, a trained spotter recorded 9 inches.

Utilities from New Jersey to Maine reported about 15,500 customers without power as of 7 a.m. New York time, including about 14,000 in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to their websites.

Officials had urged people to stay inside and prepare for the worst. The blizzard warnings extended as far north as Newfoundland in Canada, and winter weather advisories stretched as far south as Georgia.

Cuomo, Christie and Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts declared emergencies. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard were in place to help.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority closed at midnight and was to remain shut Tuesday. Baker issued a statewide travel ban for Tuesday. Boston may get another 8 to 12 inches through the rest of the day, Bann said.

Major banks shut throughout the affected areas, while Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., Bats Global Markets Inc. and Intercontinental Exchange Inc.’s NYSE Group, which operate 10 exchanges and handle 65 percent of trading volume, said they had no plans to close early or delay their open Tuesday. CME Group Inc., owner of the New York Mercantile Exchange, also plans normal market hours, spokesman Chris Grams said.

With assistance from Lars Paulsson, Naomi Christie and James Hertling in London, Annie Linskey in Washington, Katherine Chiglinsky, Christine Buurma, Serena Saitto, Robert Langreth, Meenal Vamburkar, Michelle Kaske, Annabelle Ju, Kelly Gilblom and Jim Polson in New York, Alexandra Mondalek in Detroit, Brian K. Sullivan in Boston, Allison Prang and Antonia Massa in New York and Elise Young in Trenton.

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