U.S. Northeast Snowstorm Shuts State Offices, Scrubs Flights

Jan 02, 2014 3:59 pm ET

(Updates with comment from New York governor, NYC mayor in second paragraph, flight cancellations in sixth.)

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- A winter storm that’s expected to bring more than a foot of snow to parts of New England and blizzard conditions to Long Island grounded almost 2,000 flights on the first work day of the New Year.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered state offices to shut at 3 p.m., citing “dangerous” cold, and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo, declared a statewide emergency. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, in his second day in the office, said, “We are ready for whatever hits us.”

Boston had received over 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) by 3:30 p.m. and may get 11 more by the time the storm ends tomorrow, the National Weather Service said. New York is forecast to get 6 to 8 and Philadelphia 3 to 7, according to the agency. Coastal flooding also closed roads in eastern Massachusetts, including in Boston and Quincy.

A blizzard warning was issued for Long Island, southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod for tonight into tomorrow because high winds and heavy snow could create “whiteout conditions,” the weather service said. Temperatures tomorrow are expected to plunge to the teens in New York and Boston.

“Temperatures like this, with the wind chill, are a very dangerous situation,” Patrick said. “The temperatures will be extreme. This is a serious hazard.”

Flights Scrubbed

As the snow moved out of the Midwest and into the East Coast, bad weather contributed to 1,745 flights being canceled and 4,536 delayed as of 3:19 p.m. New York time, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service in Houston.

Natural gas futures rebounded in New York from the lowest level in more than two weeks as the cold stoked heating-fuel demand. Spot wholesale electricity climbed from Boston to Chicago and Dallas as use surpassed forecasts.

Winter storm warnings and weather advisories stretch from Illinois to Maine and as far south as Georgia. Heavy snow in Chicago is expected to continue through the day, with a lake- effect snow warning in place until 6 p.m. local time along Illinois’ Lake Michigan coastline.

In Cleveland, 8 to 10 inches were expected to fall and Pittsburgh may get 3 to 5, according to the weather service. As of noon, 6 inches were reported in Summit, New York, about 53 miles west of Albany.

Second Wave

A low-pressure system will move up the East Coast later today and strengthen in the Atlantic, bringing the heaviest snows overnight to New York, Philadelphia and Boston, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecasts Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. New York City should start seeing snow fall in the early evening, said Joey Picca, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.

Hardest-hit will be the coast of New England from Maine to Cape Cod and Long Island, he said. Tides from New England to New Jersey will also be higher than normal through tomorrow.

Visibility on Long Island may be cut to less than a quarter mile and wind chills could make temperatures feel close to minus 10 Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius) tomorrow, according to the blizzard warning. Cuomo said parts of the Long Island Expressway would be shut at midnight and urged drivers to stay off the roads.

More than 70 percent of all winter-storm deaths are automobile-related, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a Quincy, Massachusetts-based non-profit advocate for safety codes.

Snow should stop in Boston and New York tomorrow as temperatures across the northern U.S. plummet, Carolan said.

Frigid Weather

“Tomorrow we will start the day off in the single digits and then get to the teens and that will be the high for the day,” Carolan said.

The high temperature for Central Park is expected to reach 15 degrees while Boston may see 12, according to the weather service.

The cold will extend from Canada deep into the U.S., said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Some of the coldest air since middle January 2009 is showing up in the Midwest late this weekend and early next week as highs in Chicago are forecast to remain below zero on Monday,” Rogers said.

Chicago is expected to have a high of minus 2 on Jan. 6, according to the weather service.

While frigid air grips the Midwest, the East Coast may see some warmer conditions early next week. New York may reach a high of 45 on Jan. 5 and 6, and Boston may get to 49 to start the work week.

--With assistance from Konstantin Rozhnov in London and Naureen S. Malik in New York. Editors: Charlotte Porter, Richard Stubbe