Blizzard blasts Northeast with snow, wind and bitter cold
(CNN) — Bitter cold. Below-zero. Blizzard conditions.
Sorry, Northeast. But those are phrases you’ll be using a lot Friday amid a monster storm.
And not just the Northeast, forecasters said. About one-third of the nation — approximately 100 million people in 22 states — is in the path this storm.
But the Northeast will be hardest-hit, the National Weather Service said.
“Heaviest snow will fall from central New York to the Massachusetts coast. Blizzard conditions are possible for eastern Long Island and the Massachusetts coast. Bitter cold will move into the Midwest and East following the storm,” the Weather Service said.
The storm was expected to be at its fiercest between 8 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday, according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
“Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely,” the Weather Service said. “This will lead to whiteout conditions making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel.”
Across the country, the nasty weather has snarled travel plans for many.
More than 2,200 U.S. flights had been canceled as of late Thursday night, reported FlightAware.com, which tracks cancellations due to weather and mechanical problems. It’s not like things will suddenly clear up: the same website reports that some 1,300 flights already have been canceled in advance for Friday.
Thursday’s most affected airport was Chicago’s O’Hare, with more than 650 cancellations in and out and about the same number of delays. Newark’s Liberty International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia and Cleveland’s Hopkins were also affected.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect where:
New York and Long Island
New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio will be facing his first crisis Friday. After taking the helm this week, he has to deal with a major snowstorm.
He warned New Yorkers to stay warm.
“Stay indoors, don’t go out if you don’t have to go out,” de Blasio said Thursday.
New York City is expecting to see 6 to 12 inches of snow by Friday. Long Island will be under a blizzard warning until 1 p.m. Friday, with predictions of 8 to 10 inches of snow, wind chills as low as 10 below zero and sustained winds of at least 35 mph.
Bitter cold will follow, with temperatures in the single digits by Saturday morning.
New York City public schools were closed Friday because of the treacherous weather, school officials said.
Upstate, the capital city of Albany could get buried under 14 inches of snow, with wind chills of 15 to 25 below zero, the National Weather Service said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for all of New York on Thursday, one of several steps taken to try to minimize the wild wintry weather’s toll.
Among them is shutting down parts of Interstate 84, an east-west highway that goes from Connecticut to Pennsylvania, to commercial vehicles late Thursday afternoon, with nearby I-87 south of Albany closing at midnight.
That’s the same time the Long Island Expressway — in a different part of the state — will close to traffic at the border between Nassau County and the Queens borough of New York. The hope is to reopen all these roads around 5 a.m., though that timing is very much subject to change.
“We’ll make sure no one is in a state of danger on those roads,” said Cuomo.
By Friday night, Boston is expected to be covered by 10 to 18 inches of snow, about twice the amount forecast just one day ago, and shivering in temperatures as low as 6 degrees below zero.
Citing likely “near blizzard” conditions Thursday night into late Friday morning, the state’s emergency management agency warned that some areas could be hit hard — including up to two feet of snow on parts of the North Shore and South Shore, as well as Cape Cod.
The forecast was so bad for Boston that the city canceled school for Friday two days in advance, with scores of other school districts quickly following suit.
“I guess Mother Nature wanted to give me one more gift,” Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters Thursday in one of his last days in the job he has held since 1993.
The combination of extreme cold, snow and strong winds had officials at homeless shelters preparing.
“Our main emphasis is getting people inside, where it is safer and warmer,” said Jennifer Harris, a spokeswoman for the Pine Street Inn shelter system in Boston, where a snow emergency has been declared. “Pine Street Inn is making sure to have extra staff and food and water. We are geared up to provide to a greater number of people.”
Blizzard warnings haven’t been issued for Boston itself, but are in effect for parts of nearby Essex and Plymouth counties — including the communities of Gloucester, Brockton and Plymouth — as well as the Cape.
Because of the storm, the state Emergency Management Agency warned that the midnight and Friday midday high tides could produce “significant flooding” along the coast. To this point, the towns of Scituate and Duxbury requested voluntary evacuations for residents of certain low-lying areas.
Connecticut and Delaware
Wind chills in parts of Connecticut are expected to range from -5 to -20 degrees Thursday night and Friday; the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for most of the state through Friday morning.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged residents to take it slow and give themselves extra time for their commutes Thursday and Friday. He said he expects there will be delays, but not cancellations, in public transit.
Addressing reporters, Malloy said the worst time for the state would be overnight — between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., when there could be blizzard conditions. Still, the storm’s impact could linger well beyond that if roads are blocked or the electricity goes out.
Delaware said state offices were closed for business Friday. Only “essential employees are to report as scheduled,” the state’s website said.
Chicago and points beyond
Seven to 11 inches of snow were possible Thursday in Chicago, according to the National Weather Service. Windy City residents will feel frigid temps — wind chills during the day Friday will creep down to minus 12 — and emergency director Gary Schenkel said more snow is possible later in the week.
Though snow in Chicago in the winter is a common event, it “can still wreak havoc on daily routines,” he noted.
Next week could be no better for some U.S. residents.
A new shot of colder air will start to move into the northern Midwest by Saturday and will dive south Monday and Tuesday, carrying zero-degree cold as far south as Nashville. “That’s the coldest air we’ve seen that far south in several years,” said Hennen, the CNN meteorologist.
The cold air will kick off a new storm Sunday into Monday that could affect a number of high-profile NFL playoff games this weekend.
Cold day for football
In Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers will give a cold welcome to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, when temperatures could bottom out at -17.
But it will be relatively balmy Sunday in Cincinnati, where snow and rain are possible when the city’s Bengals host the San Diego Chargers in another NFL playoff matchup.
AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.