East Coast Blizzard: 17 Dead, More Than 10K Flights Cancelled and Snow Is Still Falling

Times Square while snow falls on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern U.S. on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Times Square while snow falls on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern U.S. on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm’s path to seek shelter.
(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)


New York City and Long Island were under a travel ban Saturday, including all transit from New Jersey bridges and tunnels into and out of the city as a deadly blizzard left major cities, roadways and airports along the East Coast largely immobilized.

More than 60 million people were under blizzard, winter storm or freezing rain warnings as the storm’s effects stretched from Georgia to Massachusetts, according to Weather.com.

Some 250,000 customers were without power as the storm roared up the East Coast, according to the Weather Channel.

The storm officially achieved blizzard status late Saturday in Washington, D.C., theNational Weather Service said.

At least 17 people died in storm-related crashes in Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, The Associated Press reported. In Fort Washington, Md., one man died of an apparent heart attack while shoveling snow.

Eleven states from Georgia to New York declared states of emergency.

Air traffic ground to a halt across much of East Coast, with more than 9,500 flights canceled nationwide by Saturday afternoon. Underscoring the severity of the storm, all flights were halted Saturday at four of the nation’s busiest airports: Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Washington Reagan National and Baltimore/Washington International.

Public transportation in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., was also shut down as local officials called on residents to hunker down and stay off the streets for a second day.

“This event has all the makings of a multibillion-dollar economic cost,” said meteorologist Steven Bowen of Aon Benfield, a London-based global reinsurance firm.

“When combining the actual physical damage to residential and commercial properties, plus automobiles and infrastructure, and adding business interruption losses, we’re potentially looking at one of the costlier winter storm events in recent memory,” he said.

By way of comparison, he said the Blizzard of 1996, which had a similar size and scope to this event, had a $4.6 billion economic cost (in 2016 dollars). “Obviously no two events are identical, but this provides some context as to how costly these storms can be.”

As New York City’s travel ban took effect, the National Weather Service predicted 24-30 inches of snow for the metropolitan area, putting it within range of the city’s biggest snowstorm on record, 26.9 inches received in 2006.

The order, effective mid-afternoon, shut down state highways and two major routes on Long Island. Above-ground subway stations in New York City were also being closed as the storm continued to pound the area.

Under the ban, only emergency vehicles will be allowed on the streets, and drivers who ignore the order could face heavy fines and license points, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced shortly before 6 p.m. that the travel ban, initially scheduled to expire at midnight, had been extended until Sunday morning.

In response, all Broadway matinees and evening performances for Saturday night were canceled, according to The Broadway League, the official website of the Broadway theater industry.

Asked for advice for parents whose kids want to frolic in the snow, de Blasio laced empathy with caution.

“If you want to go really quickly to someplace near your home, stay with your kids — adult supervision necessary,” he said. “This is a vastly intensifying storm and it’s slippery, it’s gusty. I, as a parent, wouldn’t let my kids out of my sight.”

‘Stay at home and off the roads’

The heaviest snow fell across Maryland and Delaware earlier Saturday before shifting toward southern New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said.

The top snowfall total from the storm so far is 40 inches in Glengary, W.Va., the weather service reported. Many locations across West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. topped 2 feet, with more on the way.

“Now is the time for Marylanders to stay at home and off the roads,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. “This is the safe choice. It will also allow emergency services vehicles to maneuver and road crews to begin the long process of clearing highways and streets.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered cars without chains or snow tires to stay off the streets to avoid creating problems for snow removal, The Baltimore Sunreported.

On Capitol Hill in Washington, people emerged in the early afternoon to shovel their sidewalks, dig out their cars and walk their dogs. Some wore skis to get around, others dragged sleds toward the Capitol, where they could legally ride the sleds this year. But by 3 p.m., the snowfall picked up once again and visibility diminished.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged residents not only to stay off the roads in vehicles but also not to walk on the snow-covered streets. She said too many people were walking down the middle of the largely empty streets, hampering the work of snow plows and endangering themselves.

“Visibility is poor and you cannot be seen,” Bowser said. “We need you to stay home.”

In Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell banned all but essential personnel from driving on the roadways in Kent and New Castle counties.

“With so much snow accumulating on our roads, conditions are becoming dangerous for any more traffic than absolutely necessary,” Markell said Saturday, The News-Journal reported.

Click here for more.

, , and