New York gets its first major snowfall of the season

A winter storm blew over the northeast overnight on Friday, bringing the first heavy snowfall of winter to New York City and creating dangerous conditions for the morning commute.

Heavy snow fell before dawn in the New York City area and parts of New England, causing flight delays and cancellations at airports and slowing traffic and rail service. Schools in New York City remained open, but the storm caused school closings and delays across the region.

At least five inches of snow blanketed the city and surrounding areas. As of 7 a.m., Central Park in Manhattan had received 5.5 inches of snow and La Guardia Airport in Queens had 8.4 inches of it, according to the National Weather Service.

By mid-morning, elected officials began lifting restrictions on highway driving after urging commuters to stay off the roads and work from home if they could. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York City subway, said its crews are working hard to keep trains and buses running.

“If you have to travel, be extra careful, allow extra time and check the state of the service before leaving,” advised the authority on Friday morning.

The Metro-North Railroad, which is operated by the authority and serves suburbs north of the city, operated on a Saturday schedule due to the storm. At 8 a.m., port authorities in New York and New Jersey suspended all service on the PATH commuter train system due to smoke on the tracks at the World Trade Center. The agency then restored some services.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory until noon for the New York City area, warning the roads will be slippery and urging drivers to be careful.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency that began at 10 p.m. Thursday and ordered state offices to delay opening until 11 a.m. As of Friday morning, he said there were 90 crashes on state roads during the storm.

“The roads are going to be tough,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview with News12 New Jersey. But he said “this storm went almost exactly as planned” unlike Tuesday’s ice storm which made the morning commute unsafe that day.

Snowplows cleared the streets of New York for the first time this winter, according to a spokesperson for Eric Adams, the city’s new mayor. The city was spared a storm earlier in the week that dumped up to a foot of snow over parts of the mid-Atlantic states, including Atlantic City and other areas along the coast of the New Jersey.

The storm presented an early challenge for Mr. Adams, who was sworn in on New Years Eve. He spoke to his emergency management team at 4 a.m., the spokesperson said.

Airlines have canceled hundreds of flights at the three major airports serving New York City, but it is not known how many of those cancellations are due to the storm. In recent weeks, airlines have canceled thousands of flights across the country due to understaffing caused in part by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

In New England, winter storm warnings were issued for most of eastern Massachusetts and most of Rhode Island. Further north, part of Maine was under a blizzard warning.

The Washington area, hit just a few days ago by more than eight inches of snow, is expected to have another round, with the Meteorological service forecast up to four inches. Federal offices in Washington would be closed on Friday, officials said.

Some school districts along the Interstate-95 corridor, already facing growing concerns over increasing Covid-19 cases, have adjusted their operations for Friday. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that schools would be closed because of the storm. Public schools in Philadelphia were moving towards distance learning, while several districts in New Jersey were closing for the day or operating late.

The new storm system follows a winter punch that blanketed roads in snow and ice, set new daily snowfall records, cut power to half a million people, blocked roads on miles and stranded overnight drivers in their cars along Interstate 95 south of Washington.

The Boston area was blanketed in fine, fluffy snow overnight, with accumulations of up to seven inches Friday morning in some spots. The city was expected to reach 10 or 11 inches of buildup, something that happens “every year or so,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The driving was dangerous. Speed ​​limits on parts of the Massachusetts toll freeway were lowered to 40 miles per hour, but morning commuters described drifts and creeping accidents as plows struggled to keep up with falling snow quickly. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation had deployed nearly 2,500 snowplows, front loaders and other snow removal equipment overnight, and urged motorists not to use the roads.

Rhode Island was already starting to see heavy snowfall early Friday morning, with snow covering the roads and complicating morning trips across the state. The state Department of Transportation reported a few crashes on roads in Providence and Lincoln in the early hours of the morning, just after snow began to fall in the area.

In anticipation of the storm, the Rhode Islanders had gone out shopping the night before. Many shelves in the East Side Market, a Providence grocery store, were empty or picked up Thursday night.

At Bottles Fine Wine next door, an employee, Austin McDannell, 24, said he saw more customers than usual stop during their lunch breaks Thursday to pick up groceries. He said he wasn’t sure the store would open on Friday morning, but his fiance’s job at a beauty school in Cranston had already canceled work for Friday, and said if he had to go into hiding at him in Providence he would catch on TV. “There is still Netflix,” he said.

In Westerly, a seaside community on the Connecticut border that forecasters could see 5-10 inches of snow during the storm, the school district gave students and teachers a full day of snow, with no distance learning , the principal of the school, Mark Garceau, mentioned. A message on the school’s website urges students to “toboggan, build a snowman.”

The snowy weather comes as the United States – from Montana to Colorado to Kentucky and Massachusetts – faces a shortage of plow operators, complicating withdrawal efforts.

Officials blamed the shortage in part on broader working conditions; truckers have been in demand for years, and the shortage across the industry has reached record levels in recent months. An increase in the Omicron variant made the situation worse, forcing some snowplow operators to call the sick.

Some regions go to great lengths to attract drivers. Watertown, Mass., Pays commercially licensed drivers $ 200 an hour, with rates as high as $ 310 if they have specialized equipment, the Boston Globe reported in November.

Reporting was provided by Ellen Barry from Boston, Colleen Cronin from Rhode Island and Daniel Victor from London.

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