NYC Faces Foot of Snow as Storm Bears Down on Northeast

A major winter storm is zeroing in on more than 51 million people in the eastern U.S. and may bring New York City its heaviest December snow in 10 years.

Snow started falling Wednesday afternoon in New York. The city could get 8 to 14 inches (20 to 36 centimeters) through Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. The worst of the storm will likely strike after midnight and start tapering off around 8 a.m., said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services in Nashua, New Hampshire. Areas to the west will probably get hit even harder.

“The bumper amounts are still eastern Pennsylvania. Someone out there is going to get 18 inches and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the Poconos gets two feet,” Carolan said. “They’re going to get hammered out there.”

Read More: How the Snowstorm is Impacting Stores, Restaurants

As of 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, more than 1,240 flights had been canceled around the U.S. through Thursday, the bulk of them from Washington and New York area airports, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking company based in Houston.

Winter storm warnings stretch from North Carolina to Maine, affecting more than 51 million people. Snow, sleet and freezing rain will likely tie up air and ground travel, and trigger power outages across the region. The storm will hit as trucks carrying Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine from Michigan disperse across the U.S. and carriers toil with piles of holiday packages.

NYC Faces Foot of Snow as Storm Bears Down on Northeast

In New York, officials said the weather will have little impact on vaccination efforts.

“New York City has developed a plan to ensure vaccines continue to be delivered, stored, and administered safely as this storm hits the city,” said Bill Neidhardt, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “NYC Emergency Management is poised to assist vaccine deliveries if the need arises, which hopefully won’t.”

In New Jersey, authorities are “also watching, very carefully, the delivery of the vaccine,” Governor Phil Murphy said at a press conference broadcast from Woodridge.

New York will allow restaurants to continue operating on sidewalks, if possible, but they must shut curbside dining during the storm. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, restaurants must close any temporary structures that extend from sidewalks into the street.

Motorists are being urged to stay off city streets for the next two days, for their safety and to facilitate plowing. “We’re very concerned about a lot of traffic coming in and then having a lot of problems getting out,” de Blasio said. “Thursday morning could be a big mess.”

New Jersey is also preparing for what might be up to 18 inches across the northern parts of the state.

“All four utilities are in major storm mode,” said Jim Giuliano, reliability and security director of the state Board of Public Utilities. The companies are summoning crews from beyond New Jersey, he said.

The combination of heavy snow and ice in many areas will likely cause outages, said Jim Rouiller, a meteorologist with the Energy Weather Group. While utilities struggle with that, the cold that lingers in the wake of the storm could give a boost to natural gas demand.

There probably won’t be as much snow further south. Washington could get 1 to 2 inches, with Baltimore getting 3 inches and Philadelphia 6 inches.

“It should be a classic winter nor’easter,” said Zack Taylor, a forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. “The sweet spot looks like central Pennsylvania up through central New York,” which could get as much as 20 inches or more.

Heavy snow will also sweep across New England with Boston potentially receiving 10 to 15 inches overnight into Thursday. That would be the most since March 2018, when the city got 14.5 inches.

If the forecast bears out, this would be the heaviest December snowfall in New York’s Central Park since 2010, when the city was buried under 20.1 inches, according to weather service records. It will also beat last winter’s total snowfall, which only amounted to 4.8 inches.

There will be a sharp gradient between areas that get a lot of snow and those that miss out, said Rouiller. A shift in the storm’s track by 40 or 50 miles could make all the difference, and this could be especially true on Long Island.

Winter storms caused $2.1 billion in insured losses across the U.S. last year and about $3 billion in 2018, according to Munich Re. Snowy and icy weather snarls airline, highway and rail traffic, and can trigger power outages and hinder retail sales. In 2019, 13 people died across the U.S. from winter weather, according to the National Weather Service.

In 2020, natural disasters worldwide caused $76 billion in insured losses, an increase of 40% from the year before, according to a newly released study by Swiss Re Group. While 2020 saw a record 30 hurricanes and tropical storms across the Atlantic, the majority of the losses were from thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail, along with wildfires in the western U.S.

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