Residents of the US north-east are bracing themselves for a major winter storm that could deliver up to 2ft of snow in areas including New York City and Boston on Friday and Saturday.
A blizzard warning is due to come into effect from Boston down to New York City on Friday morning, while Rhode Island, Connecticut and parts of New Jersey are also likely to be affected. The National Weather Service warned that the conditions will make travel “extremely dangerous” and said people in affected areas should not venture out into the storm.
The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts said on Thursday afternoon that New York City could receive 20in of snow over Friday and Saturday, which would be one of the largest ever accumulations from a single storm. The European forecasting model is one of the most respected prediction tools, and was praised for accurately tracking Hurricane Sandy’s path in October last year.
Airlines began issuing travel warnings on Thursday as the National Weather Service warned that snow will begin falling in the north-east early on Friday morning, continuing through the day and becoming heavier overnight into Saturday.
“This has the potential for being a dangerous storm, especially for Massachusetts into north-east Connecticut and up into Maine,” said Louis Uccellini, the director of the NWS’s National Centers for Environment Prediction.
He told the Associated Press that the snowstorm will be the type where “you can’t let your guard down”.
The National Weather Service announced on Thursday evening that blizzards could strike along the north-east corridor, hitting many locations including New York City around the Friday afternoon rush hour period. The NWS sent out text alerts to subscribers in New York City warning them to prepare before the storm, and claiming that Boston could see 35mph winds, the NWS said, with higher gusts possible.
The agency said the heavy snow and winds across the north-east would make for dangerous driving conditions, “with visibilities near zero in white-out conditions”. It said some tree limbs “will be downed, causing scattered power outages”.
In a forecast released at 1pm on Thursday, the ECMWF predicted more than 24in of snow for Boston, and revised its earlier forecast to predict that the storm would sweep westwards, meaning larger snowfalls for New York City. The next European model forecast was due at 1am ET.
The rival North American Mesoscale forecasting model had previously shown little snow in the New York City area, but was updated on Thursday to show 20in of snow, and blizzard-like conditions running from New York City to Boston.
If the NAM and European forecasts are correct, the snowstorms would rank in the top 10 all-time accumulations for a single storm in Boston and New York.
US Airways issued a travel advisory on Thursday morning, warning that more than 20 cities could be affected on Friday and Saturday. Delta warned that “severe weather will impact travel to, from or through the north-east”. Both airlines advised passengers to check their flight statuses if planning to travel on Friday or Saturday.
Meanwhile, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said snow plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby to start clearing the streets. “We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell,” he said.
Bloomberg and his administration were criticised during a December 2010 snowstorm that grounded flights and left severe delays on the city’s public transport system. The mayor said he had been “extremely dissatisfied” with New York City’s emergency management system.