New York Heads for Worst Winter Storm of Year as Planes Grounded

Jan 21, 2014 10:55 pm ET

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- New York was poised for the worst winter storm this year as flights were grounded by the thousands, political events were scuttled and natural gas prices surged to record highs.

New York and Boston may have as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow as the sun rises and the storm winds down, said Gary Best, a meteorologist with Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. Forecasters expect it will turn its wrath on the Canadian Maritimes early tomorrow.

“The snow is gone and the cold is here, that is basically the theme,” Best said by telephone.

The storm closed federal offices in Washington, forced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to cancel his inauguration party and prompted Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to reschedule his last State of the State address. By 4 p.m. New York time today, 2,949 flights had been grounded, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service.

Boston and Philadelphia schools closed for tomorrow, while New York had yet to make a decision, according to district websites.

Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter train schedules might be trimmed or canceled after 8 p.m. depending on track conditions, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority said. Most New York City buses were behind schedule and some were detoured, it said. Amtrak expected its Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains between Boston and Washington to experience delays and reduced schedules tomorrow.

Cold Coming

Across the Canadian Maritimes, the worst of the snow is expected tomorrow. As the storm leaves the U.S. Northeast, high winds and plummeting temperatures will mean New Yorkers heading to work will face wind chills from minus 5 Fahrenheit (minus 20 Celsius) to minus 10, said Best.

The onset of bitter cold helped push natural gas on spot markets to record levels. Cash prices on Williams Co.’s Transco Zone 6 hub for New York City surged sevenfold to $120.6976 per million Btu on the Intercontinental Exchange. Gas at Algonquin City Gates, which includes Boston and other New England deliveries, more than tripled to close at $57.4958.

Natural gas for February delivery advanced 10.5 cents to $4.431 per million British thermal on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Dec. 26. Almost half of U.S. households use gas for heating. Spot wholesale electricity jumped to two-week highs across eastern U.S. grids.

NYC Streets

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to stay home and out of their cars as much as possible so sanitation workers could clear snow. The city has put 450 salt-spreaders on the streets and has 2,200 vehicles on hand to tackle the storm.

“People need to take every kind of precaution,” de Blasio said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Christie and Delaware Governor Jack Markell declared states of emergency.

Temperatures are expected to drop 15 to 30 degrees below average across the upper Midwest and 15 to 25 degrees from the Lower Great Lakes into the mid-Atlantic region during the next three days, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Arctic air is returning to the U.S. after frigid weather that set records across the Midwest earlier this month. Readings dropped to single-digits far into the South.

There is another chance for light snow throughout the Northeast this weekend and the potential for another, larger storm early next week, Best said.

--With assistance from Jim Polson, Naureen S. Malik and Esme E. Deprez in New York, Anna Shiryaevskaya in London and Annie Linskey in Boston. Editors: Charlotte Porter, Margot Habiby