Snowstorm swirls into Northeast
New York — Tens of millions of people along the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor rushed to get home and settle in Monday as a storm swirled in with the potential for hurricane-force winds and 1-3 feet of snow that could paralyze the Northeast for days.
Snow was coating cars and building up on sidewalks and roadways in New York City by evening, and flurries were flying in Boston. Forecasters said the storm would build into a blizzard, and the brunt of it would hit late Monday and into Tuesday.
As the snow got heavier, much of the region rushed to shut down.
More than 7,700 flights in and out of the Northeast were canceled, and many of them may not take off again until Wednesday.
The impact from the approaching storm grounded more than 150 flights at Detroit Metropolitan Airport flights on Monday. Just as Michigan State University's basketball team was scrambling to finish an earlier than expected practice and get to the airport for a flight to New Jersey, its Tuesday night game at Rutgers University was postponed.
Schools and businesses let out early in the Northeast. Government offices closed. Shoppers stocking up on food jammed supermarkets and elbowed one another for what was left. Broadway stages went dark.
"It's going to be ridiculous out there, frightening," said postal deliveryman Peter Hovey, standing on a snowy commuter train platform in White Plains, New York.
All too aware that big snowstorms can make or break politicians, governors and mayors moved quickly to declare emergencies and order the shutdown of streets and highways to prevent travelers from getting stranded and to enable plows and emergency vehicles to get through.
"This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warned.
He urged New Yorkers to go home and stay there, adding: "People have to make smart decisions from this point on."
Commuters like Sameer Navi, 27, of Long Island, were following the advice.
Navi, who works for Citigroup in Manhattan, said he takes the Long Island Rail Road every day and left work early Monday after warnings by local officials to get home before the brunt of the storm. "I did leave earlier than usual," he said. "Penn Station was less crowded than I thought it would be so I'm guessing people left earlier or didn't go to work today."
Up to now, this has been a largely snow-free winter in the urban Northeast. But this storm threatened to make up the difference in a single blow.
Boston was expected to get 2-3 feet of snow, New York 11/2-2 feet and Philadelphia more than a foot.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for a 250-mile swath of the region, meaning heavy, blowing snow and potential whiteout conditions. Forecasters warned that the wind could gust to 75 mph or more along the Massachusetts coast.
New York City's subways and buses were suspended at 11 p.m. In Massachusetts, ferry service to Martha's Vineyard was greatly curtailed and to Nantucket was suspended. Commuter railroads across the Northeast announced plans to stop running overnight, and most flights out of the region's major airports were canceled.
Authorities banned travel on all streets and highways in New York City and on Long Island and warned that violators could be fined $300. Even food deliveries were off-limits on the streets of takeout-friendly Manhattan. The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island also slapped restrictions on nonessential travel.
On Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange stayed open and said it would operate normally Tuesday as well.
Coastal residents braced for a powerful storm surge and the possibility of damaging flooding and beach erosion.
Detroit News Staff Writer
Leonard Fleming contributed.
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