The combination of heavy snow, gusty winds and coastal flooding was expected to make travel anywhere from dangerous to impossible in much of the region Monday and could knock out power over a wide area.
“I want New Yorkers to hear me loud and clear — stay home and off the roads,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in declaring a state of emergency for 44 counties.
This could be a historic snowstorm. As of 1 p.m., Central Park had reported 13.3 inches of snow (8 inches in the last 6 hours) and it was still snowing, the National Weather Service said. CNN meteorologists say it’s possible around two feet of snow will blanket the city before the storm passes.
Covid-19 clinics in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and other locations in the region were closed on Monday because of the storm. De Blasio said appointments can be rescheduled, and NYC will be able to catch up “quickly.”
The storm snarled air traffic, too.
LaGuardia Airport canceled all commercial flights on Monday. As of late morning, 83% of JFK flights have been canceled and more cancellations are expected. At Newark Liberty, 75% of flights have been canceled and AirTrain Service is suspended.
The hard-hit places
New York City
The snowfall, which began late Sunday night, picked up intensity Monday, and snowfall rates could get as high as 2 to 3 inches per hour for the city, Long Island and southern Connecticut. That could create zero-visibility conditions and make travel very dangerous.
The city transit authority suspended outdoor subway service starting at 2 p.m. Monday.
Buses are still operating, but the city and state monitoring the situation closely, said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of the New York City Transit Authority.
No empty or tandem tractor trailers are allowed on bridges, and pedestrian walkways on some bridges are closed.
Students in the city school system will take classes remotely through Tuesday, de Blasio said.
“It’s a little challenging,” East New York resident Debra Paul said. “The gentleman had to hold me, because I was lifting off the ground.”
The storm could drop up to 21 inches by the time it ends. If that happens, it will be the most snow New York City has seen since the January 22 to 24, 2016, storm that dumped 27.5 inches over a two-day period. It would also cement this storm as one of the most prolific winter storms for the city, placing it in the top 10 of largest snowfall totals on record.
The city has already seen 2-3 inches of snow, ending a run of 710 consecutive days without an inch of snow or more, the second-longest in the city going back to 1884.
On Monday, the precipitation transitioned to a sleet and snow mix, coating roadways with ice and adding to driving danger. There’s a chance of some light snow on Tuesday morning before it ends in the afternoon. The district could see a total of 5 to 7 inches, the most in the last two years.
A similar combination of rain and snow hit Philadelphia, where 2 to 3 inches of snow had fallen by early Monday.
A rain-snow mix in the morning will likely switch back to snow Monday night through Tuesday. The final total expected there is around a foot.
A wintery mix beginning Monday night will continue all day Tuesday, changing back to snow Tuesday night. The National Weather Service said road conditions would deteriorate quickly around midday Monday.
Boston is accustomed to significant snowfall, having alerted crews to plow 2,000 lane miles of the city’s roadways through Tuesday.
That’s equivalent of the distance from Boston to Denver being cleared of snow in under 48 hours.
The placement and track of this multiday storm will play major role in the snowfall totals across the Northeast. A storm close to the coastline will produce more rainfall, while one too far offshore will reduce moisture and lead to less snowfall.
Models suggest this nor’easter should be in the sweet spot for abundant moisture leading to significant snowfall. Another important factor has also been in play, increasing the confidence for the impacts of the storm.
According to CNN meteorologist Tom Sater, this storm is tapping cold Canadian air. “A strong high pressure system is in place over southeast Canada, pushing plenty of cold air far south enough and lasting long enough to get the kind of snowfall being forecast.”
Nearly 75 million across a dozen states are under some kind of winter watch or warning from a storm which had its genesis in the Midwest on Saturday. While there, the storm dropped more than foot of snow in Milwaukee.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong first name for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.