Major snowstorm socks Northeast
Blizzard warning issued for parts of New York, New England
Sunday, January 23, 2005 Posted: 3:11 AM EST (0811 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A fierce winter storm virtually shut down parts of the Midwest and Northeast on Saturday, causing airlines to cancel about 3,000 flights and stranding 800 passengers in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia International Airport closed about 3 p.m. when visibility dropped to zero, and reopened five hours later, but no flights were departing, airport spokesman Mark Pesce said. Airlines were expected to re-evaluate the weather Sunday -- probably about 5 a.m., he said.
The airport has no emergency cots, but staff members were distributing coffee, snacks and other items, Pesce said.
"All the hotels in the area are completely booked," he added.
Rally Caparas, CNN air traffic specialist, predicted flight cancellations would persist Sunday, even if the snow stops.
"It's going to be a very rough day tomorrow."
All travelers were urged to contact their airlines for the status of their flights.
Forecasters warned that parts of eastern Massachusetts could receive 30 inches of snow by late Sunday, and up to 3 inches an hour could fall in some places. A blizzard warning was in effect for eastern New York and western New England through noon Sunday.
Snow fell heavily Saturday in eastern New York and New Jersey, through western Massachusetts and into Connecticut and Philadelphia.
"The storm is still developing and intensifying," CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said. She predicted blizzard conditions in southern parts of New England and coastal areas overnight.
A storm becomes a blizzard when visibility is down to one-quarter mile and there are sustained winds of 35 mph for at least three hours.
'It can be life-threatening'
A new low-pressure system was forming to the south, around Norfolk, Virginia, and was expected to move into the Atlantic, pick up moisture and give coastal cities another dose of snow Sunday, Jeras said. Winds could reach 50 mph.
A dry patch of air moved into the Washington and Philadelphia areas Saturday night, helping to keep their snowfall amounts lower than expected.
Some tourists in Washington were undeterred by the snowfall as they visited museums. Young people made snow angels on the National Mall.
"We can't do this in Florida," one said.
As of 8 p.m., New York had received 7 inches of snow. As much as 30 inches was expected in parts of New England. Other predictions: Detroit, 12 inches; Chicago and Philadelphia, 11 inches; and Milwaukee, 13 inches.
More than 1,000 of Saturday's canceled flights were in New York and Boston, Caparas said.
Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, closed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, according to its Web site. No time was given for re-opening.
A Polar Air cargo plane with three people aboard slid off a runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport late Saturday afternoon, but there were no injuries, Port Authority spokesman Alan Hicks said.
According to The Associated Press, three people have died of storm-related causes in Ohio: one man who fell through a frozen pond and two others who died of apparent heart attacks while removing snow.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg activated his Emergency Operations Center Saturday, canceled days off and vacations for sanitation workers, and issued a strong warning to residents to stay off the streets.
"This really is a dangerous storm that is coming in," Bloomberg told reporters before the snow began falling at noon. "One of the forecasters compared it to the blizzard of '96, and it can be life threatening."
In 1996, New York City received 20 inches of snow as records were shattered across the Northeast.
$1 million per inch
New York has 2,500 sanitation workers on two shifts, equipped with 1,800 pieces of equipment -- including snowplows and snow melters -- to clear the city's 6,300 miles of roads, Bloomberg said. The Emergency Operations Center coordinates 25 agencies.
"Our hope is that by Monday morning we will have plowed every single road at least once and an awful lot of them more than once," Bloomberg said.
"This storm is going to be particularly hard," he said. "The snow that we are expecting is light snow that will blow around. And it's very cold. When it's very cold what happens is, unfortunately, is that the salt does not melt the snow."
Still, he said, the streets should be clear enough by Monday morning so "you'll be able to get to school, get to work, go shopping and do what you have to do."
New Yorkers lined up Saturday at grocery and hardware stores for supplies to ride out the storm.
Bloomberg said every inch of snow that falls usually costs his city $1 million to clear.
"We're going to take care of this city regardless of the cost, and then Monday morning I'll have to worry about how to pay for it," he said.
The mayor reminded residents of their legal duty to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes within four hours of the snowfall's conclusion and called on New Yorkers to help others in need.
"If you see somebody outside on the street and they look like they're in trouble, call 911," Bloomberg said.
Neighbors should check on the elderly and others who live alone, he said.
"Just pick up the phone, knock on the door," Bloomberg said. "Tragically, people can die. It is very cold. It is going to be very windy."