Hundreds of salt-spreading trucks fanned out across New York City today as the region’s first major winter storm of the season threatened to drop up to 18 inches of snow, blanketing a wide swath of the Northeast US and New England.
Power was knocked out to hundreds of homes in New Jersey, flights were cancelled at airports from Boston to Washington DC, and speed limits were lowered because of the wet, snowy conditions.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the New York City metro area and much of the Northeast, predicting that winds gusting between 40 and 50 miles per hour could bring down trees and power lines. Heavy snow warnings were issued from eastern Kentucky to New England.
On average, 12 to 18 inches of snow were expected throughout the metro region, with temperatures as low as 23 F (minus 5C), forecasters said. In Wayne, New Jersey, a foot of snow had accumulated early today, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Silva.
In a rare display, lightning bolts joined the snow over LaGuardia Airport, where most airlines had cancelled all flights until this afternoon. Delta, Delta Shuttle and American Airlines had cancelled all flights at the airport until Monday, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
More than 100 Sunday flights were cancelled at John F. Kennedy International airport, including all Delta flights, and several carriers cancelled most or all of their Sunday departing flights at Newark Liberty International.
Delta said it cancelled its Sunday arrivals and departures at several other airports in the storm’s path, including those in Philadelphia; Boston; Baltimore; Newark; Providence, Rhode Island; Washington DC; and Hartford, Connecticut.
Four inches of snow had accumulated in parts of Fairfax, Virginia, late Saturday, and crews worked to clear the runways at Washington Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia.
In the hours before snow began falling, New York residents formed long lines at supermarkets as they stocked up on bottled water and basic supplies.
The city’s 353 salt-spreading plough trucks went out with 181,440 metric tons of rock salt on hand, said Kathy Dawkins, spokeswoman for the Department of Sanitation. Twenty machines throughout the five boroughs would be melting up to 54 metric tons of snow per hour, she said.
The department’s trucks have some 6,300 miles of city streets and roads to plough – about the distance from New York to Los Angeles and back, Dawkins said.