Snow storm for the holidays
WASHINGTON – A band of frigid weather snaking its way up the East Coast today threatened to bring blizzards and a foot of snow to New York City and New England, while several states to the South made emergency declarations as the storm caused crashes on slick roads.
Airlines grounded hundreds of flights along the Northeast corridor in anticipation of the storm, affecting major airports including New York’s JFK and Newark. Airlines said more cancellations were likely as the storm progressed. Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, where a rare white Christmas came with reports of dozens of car crashes.
In Washington transportation officials pre-treated roads and readied 200 salt trucks, ploughs and other pieces of equipment to fight the six inches or more expected to fall in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Northeast is expected to get the brunt of the storm. Forecasters issued a blizzard warning for New York City for today and tomorrow, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will reduce visibility to near zero at times. A blizzard warning was also in effect for Rhode Island and most of eastern Massachusetts including Boston, with forecasters predicting 15 to 20 inches of snow. A blizzard warning is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph.
By early today, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina had declared states of emergency.
“Winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour will cause blowing snow and that’s going to cause the worst of it,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told The Weather Channel last night. “We’re urging extreme caution in travel. Try to get home early and if you don’t have to travel don’t go.”
Major airlines were cancelling flights in the storm’s path today. Continental Airlines cancelled 250 departures from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York City. United Airlines cancelled dozens of departures today from Newark, Philadelphia, New York’s LaGuardia and JFK, Boston and other airports. AirTran and Southwest Airlines also cancelled flights, mostly in or out of Washington Dulles, Baltimore and Newark.
Most carriers were waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urging passengers to make changes through their websites.
The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system that intensified off the North Carolina coast this morning and strengthened into a major storm as it moved northeast, according to the National Weather Service.
Delaware and Philadelphia braced for up to a foot of snow predicted to fall from today into tomorrow and authorities urged people to avoid traveling if possible.
Early today, winter storm warnings stretched from Georgia to New England.
The white Christmas in the South was one for the record books. Columbia, S.C., had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch of snow – the first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since the 1880s. (AP)