Massive Snowstorm Clobbers the Northeast

Pedestrians cross Seventh Street at the Liberty Avenue intersection during a snowy rush hour on Wednesday in downtown Pittsburgh. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

(CN) — Winter’s might hammered the Northeast Wednesday as a relentless and hulking storm not seen in years delivered massive amounts of snow, sleet and ice.

By late afternoon, snowfall blanketed Virginia to New York as the first major snowstorm of the year forced airport closures, delay of Covid-19 vaccine deliveries and power outages. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, which hit the Garden State with winds of up to 50 mph.

“Our theme today ought to be, ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” he said earlier in the day.

The snowstorm comes in the middle of a pandemic, as several cities closed coronavirus testing sites in anticipation of the wintry weather. 

Forecasters from the National Weather Service predict up to 14 inches of snow for New York City, more snow than the city had seen last year. 

“Many locations from eastern West Virginia to far southern Maine are forecast to see a foot of snowfall accumulation,” the service said in a statement. “In some areas, this would be more snow in one event that was seen all of last winter.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked residents to stay at home during the storm.

“State and local emergency response assets and personnel have been staged throughout the state and are ready to help keep all New Yorkers safe as this powerful system moves through the Northeast,” Cuomo said. “This is our first major storm of the season, and I’m urging the public to stay home this evening and throughout the overnight hours to let our crews do their jobs and clear the roads. Just remember – if you’re stuck in traffic, our plows are too.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to announce that in-person classes would be cancelled Thursday at city schools, but added that remote classes would continue as normal. 

“With a powerful winter storm on the way, we’re going to CANCEL in-person learning for @NYCSchools on Thursday, December 17,” he wrote. “I know we all grew up with the excitement of snow days, but this year is different. Tomorrow will be a FULL REMOTE learning day for our students.”

Snow fell on the Big Apple at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour and isn’t expected to slow until 1 a.m. Authorities had to shut down southbound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway after six people were injured in a 27-car pileup shortly after 6 p.m.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued a tractor trailer ban on limited access highways and ordered a closure of all executive branch state office buildings to the public.

“After consulting with the state’s emergency management team, we have decided to direct all Level 2 state employees who have been physically reporting to work during this pandemic to stay home out of an abundance of caution as road conditions are expected to severely deteriorate Thursday due to the winter storm,” Lamont said. “I strongly encourage private sector employees consider enacting similar policies for their employees, as road conditions will be rough during the day.”

Maryland State Police received 500 calls from stranded motorists or those who were involved in collisions. In Virginia, state police fielded calls to 200 vehicle crashes before evening, including a multi-car pileup that killed two. Authorities in Pennsylvania reported a 30 to 60 car crash on westbound Interstate 80 that resulted in the death of two and several injuries. 

The storm is expected to last until Thursday evening.

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