Northeast Snowstorm Snarls Air Traffic, Boosts Energy Prices

Dec 17, 2013 4:46 pm ET

(Updates New York snow total in second paragraph and flight cancellations and delays starting in sixth paragraph.)

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A fast-moving storm spread snow across the U.S. Northeast, tying up air traffic and boosting spot energy prices as electricity demand surged.

Boston may get 8 inches (20 centimeters) before the storm ends late today, said Alan Dunham, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts. New York’s Central Park had received 1.1 inch by 1 p.m., the weather service said.

A warming trend following the storm will send temperatures into the 50s (10 to 15 Celsius) in the region, forecasters said.

A winter weather advisory today was upgraded to a winter storm warning across eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, and southern New Hampshire.

“One of the biggest impacts with this snow situation will be the afternoon and evening commute,” Dunham said. “It’s not a good combination when there are a lot of cars and moderate-to- heavy snow.”

As of 4 p.m. in New York, 202 flights at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and 129 at New York’s LaGuardia had been canceled, said FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. Across the U.S., 564 flights were scrubbed and 2,920 delayed, the company said.

Spot wholesale electricity in the Northeast surged as demand topped regional grid operators’ forecasts. On-peak prices for Boston climbed $85.32, or 54 percent, to average $244.22 a megawatt-hour as of 4 p.m., the most since July 19. New York City power rose $17.99, or 18 percent, to $120.10.

Grid Alert

ISO New England Inc. issued a system-wide alert asking operators of transmission lines and power plants to halt any routine maintenance, construction or testing that could jeopardize reliability of the six-state grid, Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for the company in Holyoke, Massachusetts, said in an e-mail.

“New England has experienced cold temperatures, which pushes up consumer demand for power and can also affect the performance of electric system infrastructure and equipment,” she said. It was 26 degrees in Boston at 4:30 p.m., the weather service reported.

Outside of New York, the storm was expected to bring as much as 3 inches of fluffy snow to eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, including Philadelphia and Trenton, the agency said.

Snowfall Totals

Heavier snow will develop after the storm’s energy moves out over the Atlantic, striking harder at Cape Ann in Massachusetts and along the coast of New Hampshire and Maine than New York, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“Then it buries the Canadian Maritimes,” Carolan said.

Snowfall warnings of as much as 10 inches were issued for New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia, according to Environment Canada.

After the storm passes, temperatures along the East Coast will moderate, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“It’s going to get mild in the second half of the work week,” Kines said. “Any precipitation that falls later in the week will be primarily rain.”

Depending on where a warm front sets up across New England, Boston may have temperatures in the 50s by this weekend, Dunham said. New York should be close to 60 by Dec. 22, according to AccuWeather.

A total of 43.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was covered by snow as of today, with an average depth of 3 inches, according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

--Editors: Charlotte Porter, Richard Stubbe