Mayor de Blasio bans all NYC travel as winter blast pummels city
Empty streets in New York - The Guardian

7.32pm GMT


New York City travel ban goes into effect

As of 2:30pm, you can be arrested for driving on New York City’s streets. The mayor enacted a travel ban Saturday after the city saw more snow more quickly than it expected.

At 4pm, service on outdoor subway lines will be suspended, as trains that service the suburbs of New York City in Long Island and Westchester County. Bridges and tunnels leading into New York City, including the George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel, will also be closed. Governor Chris Christie shut down NJ Transit early Saturday morning.

7.05pm GMT

Philadelphia remains under a blizzard warning until 6am Sunday, and public officials are reminding drivers to stay off the roads, but for now there are at least some people in the City of Brotherly Love enjoying the weather.

The National Weather Service is predicting Philadelphia could see 18 inches of snow accumulation through Saturday afternoon. The city’s office of emergency management already clocked 17.1 inches of snow as of 9:45am.

It’s likely the blizzard will also become one of Philadelphia’s biggest ever snow events – the largest snowstorm in the city’s history was in 1996, according to Philly.com , when 31 inches of snow fell January 6-8.

The next highest totals were in 2009 and 2010, when 23.3 and 28.5 inches fell respectively.

6.39pm GMT

In Pennsylvania, vehicles that got trapped on the turnpike Friday are still there today, as emergency crews attempt to dig them out, including two college athletic teams and a group of students from North Dakota.

Here’s a report from the Associated Press on the stranded travelers:

Snowbound college athletes who spent the night stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike munched on leftover pizza or watched movies to pass the time as they waited to be dug out by emergency crews tackling massive backups that stretched for miles after a powerful winter storm socked the region.

Cars, trucks and buses that got stuck Friday night still hadn’t moved on Saturday, including buses carrying the Duquesne men’s basketball team and the gymnastics squad from Temple University.

The National Guard was called out to provide food and water, as well as chains and shovels while emergency workers on all-terrain vehicles checked on stranded motorists. Officials closed a 90-mile stretch of the roadway to allow maintenance workers to focus on those who were stuck.

“We haven’t moved one inch,” said Duquesne coach Jim Ferry on Saturday morning. Ferry said his players were running out of the leftover pizza they bought on the way home from an 86-75 win over George Mason on Friday afternoon. “We’re getting pretty hungry,” he said. “We hope it starts moving pretty soon.”

The governor’s office said the problems in Somerset County began after westbound tractor-trailers were unable to climb a hill. As traffic backed up behind them, more trucks also became unable to go up the hill, backing up all vehicles and preventing emergency crews from getting heavy-duty tow trucks to the scene and road crews from being able to clear the snow, officials said.

Temple gymnastics coach Umme Salim-Beasley said her team usually travels with a large amount of snacks “so those came in handy,” and fire department personnel brought them water.

“We always bring movies for our bus trip, and we have gone through all of them and we’ll probably start watching them again,” she said.

Ferry said his players were also in good spirits, passing the time with jokes and watching movies.

“But you got to remember we have some big guys, so it’s hard to sleep on a bus like this,” he said.

Salim-Beasley, however, said her team’s training has made spending hours on a cramped bus more bearable than it might be for others.

“We are a gymnastics team,” she said. “So we can get into positions that most people won’t be able to get into.”

6.20pm GMT

Although New York and New Jersey have monopolized the last hour of our liveblog coverage with announcements of travel bans and mass transit shutdowns, conditions elsewhere on the Atlantic seaboard remain serious.

In Baltimore, Maryland, a blizzard warning remains in effect until 6am Sunday, and mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told CNN that residents should remain indoors.

We have a ways to go – we’re a little more than halfway through. We know we’re going to have another surge of weather this evening so that’s why we’re telling people [to] please stay off the roads.

We think [the snowfall] might slow down a little bit, but this evening we’re thinking it’s going to go to [a rate of 2-3 inches per hour], plus the heavy winds, so that’s the problem.

It’s very dangerous – that’s why we want to make sure the roads stay as clear as possible.”

6.00pm GMT

And there it is: Broadway closes for the blizzard.

5.57pm GMT

And New York City will join state officials to ban travel as well:

De Blasio is also urging restaurants and theaters to close.

It’s time for businesses to shut down and get their employees home right away,” the mayor said.

The travel ban means anyone on the road can be “subject to arrest” according to the New York Police Department and de Blasio. Here’s NYPD police chief James P. O’Neill:

Listen this is not what we want to do… We need our cops to be able to answer calls for service, not lock up people who made bad decisions… You are subject to arrest.”

5.49pm GMT

Travel bans announced around New York City

New York governor Andrew Cuomo just announced travel bans in New York.

  • At 2:30pm a travel ban on New York state roads will go into effect.
  • Service on outside subway train lines will be suspended at 4pm.
  • Train service in New York’s suburbs will stop at 4pm, that includes service on the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North lines, which together services .
  • Bridges and tunnels from New Jersey to New York City will also close as part of the trave ban.

Here’s what a travel ban means in practice, from Cuomo:

Unless it is truly an emergency, you should not be on the road... I am not a hyper-cautious person, but the roads were truly, truly dangerous.

Now, to be on a banned road, you can be summonsed for being on the road when a ban is in place, and there can be points on your license, and significant fines.

So, what we’re saying is stay off the road – officially.”

5.30pm GMT

New Jersey governor Chris Christie also took the flooding along the Jersey Shore to address a delayed dune project proposed after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Jersey Shore.

The governor said he believes the project is necessary to protect communities. The project, which would dredge up high dunes that may block some beachfront homeowners’ ocean views, became so acrimonious that the state used its eminent domain powers to obtain the necessary easements. That caused homeowners in Bay Head to file suit in Ocean county court in October this year.

This is certainly not Super Storm Sandy, and those streets were already flooded this morning,” Christie said, referring to flooding along the Jersey shore caused by the blizzard’s high winds and tides.

“Again these are folks who are fighting against it not just at Point Pleasant beach, but at Ortley beach… Ortley beach is being pounded. Now, we put a lot of sand up there at the request of the mayor of Tom’s River, but that sand has already washed away. ...

They can send their thank you notes to the people in Bayhead and the people in Point Pleasant who continue to fight what is an environmentally sound [project]. ...

It’s three years post-Sandy, and it should not be held up by what I believe are a few very selfish homeowners.”

5.11pm GMT

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are considering closing Hudson River crossings as the storm worsens, he said Saturday.

That could stop traffic from crossing the 14-lane George Washington Bridge, one of the most crossed in the world.

At least 90,000 customers in New Jersey are without power, according to the state’s governor Chris Christie, and southern parts of the state are seeing street flooding.

This is my 17th snow emergency in six years, so we know how to do this ,” said Christie. ...

We’re in one of the heaviest snowbands right here in Sayerville through the north of the state. So, for the folks from here in Middlesex county north all the way up to Bergen county – stay home.”

4.52pm GMT

We’re expecting New Jersey governor Chris Christie to update the public on conditions in the state within the hour.

The blizzard forced the governor and Republican presidential candidate to return from the New Hampshire campaign trail yesterday after he first committed to staying there.

Some parts of New Jersey are already seeing coastal flooding, an unnerving state of affairs for some communities which are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

4.48pm GMT

Blizzard of 2016 could be among top five in New York City history

This storm will surpass 20 inches accumulation in New York City – when that happens ... it will be in the top five snowstorms literally in our recorded history,” said New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday.

“That says that people have to take very seriously what’s going on here, and recognize there’s a lot of danger, and a lot of disruption that’s going to take place here because of this storm.”

De Blasio said he is coordinating with Governor Andrew Cuomo to determine if the state city and state should enact a total travel ban, a decision he said could come within the hour.

Anyone who’s come into the city from the suburbs should turn around and go back. This is very, very fast accumulation, and I guarantee if people linger they will get stuc k.”

As of 10am, there was already 11.5 inches of snow in Central Park, considered the benchmark location for New York snowfall. City officials are preparing for as much as 30 inches.

Already, department of sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia said that the city has 2,500 piece of equipment clearing snow, and that workers had to start earlier than expected, at 5am Saturday.

We are seeing very intense snowfall out there, and I really do ask people get off the roads, because it’s dangerous if you’re a professional driver – it’s doubly dangerous if you don’t have that training.”

De Blasio also asked New Yorkers to shovel out fire hydrants that first responders might need during the course of the storm, and to watch closely any children playing in the snow.

4.28pm GMT

New York officials consider travel ban as snow falls faster than expected

We’re listening to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s press conference now. Here’s a taste of what he’s saying:

  • This blizzard is likely to be among the top five worst in New York City’s history, going back to recorded storms in the 1800s. The storm will earn that distinction once snowfall totals hit 20 inches in Central Park.
  • Officials are planning for up to 30 inches of snow, and expecting up to 25 inches.
  • Snow is falling faster than expected, at between 1-3in per hour.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and De Blasio are seriously considering a total travel ban.
  • New York City buses will stop running in less than one hour.
  • The mayor is asking residents to stay off mass transit, including subway lines, and all roadways.

Updated at 4.31pm GMT

3.50pm GMT

The National Zoo in Washington DC is closed … but the panda cameras keep rolling.

3.36pm GMT

Reader Dan Broome sends a fairly representative photo of what New York looks like right now. Here at Guardian NY HQ the East River has vanished and the World Trade Center is a faint outline in the haze.

3.17pm GMT

Mayor of DC: 'stay home'

Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser is also giving a press conference, and emphatically urging people to get off the roads.

“We need the public to listen, is to stay home and to stay off of the streets. That includes people who are attempting to drive, but that also includes people who are walking. Our plows and emergency vehicles cannot do their jobs with you on the streets. … There are too many people on the streets both driving and walking. We need you to stay home.

She says the city has already had up to 13in of snow “and we expect the second half of this storm to drop another 10in of snow. We also expect the winds to be the most significant today.”

Bowser adds that city “911 operators last night received 300 calls and everybody received a response.”

But an official with the Department of Homeland Security warns that emergency personnel are “very much still in the emergent phase”.

“We’re still in that time frame when real bad things can happen. … Once the snow stops and the winds calm, that’s when we get to the response phase, that’s when we clean the city up.”

3.13pm GMT

NYC suspends bus service

Ronnie Hakim, MTA president, says the city will suspend bus service at noon local time because buses having too much trouble with the snow.

She says the subways will keep running, though “weather continues to be a concern around the maintenance of our above-ground, our exterior subway service.”

Governor Cuomo adds: “We have several thousand power outages, primarily on Long Island, that sounds like a lot in a situation like this, actually that’s not overly problematic.”

He adds that the storm is expected to be a long one: “They’re talking about two full days of weather but once that clears we’ll be in a better position.”

3.10pm GMT

Cuomo: 'roads open but incredibly dangerous'

New York governor Andrew Cuomo is giving a press conference

“It seems the weather forecasters got it right this time,” he starts. “There is a blizzard, it’s come up the coast … it’s now hit New York, the eye of the storm is supposed to hit at 11 o’clock. I have declared a state of emergency.”

He notes that a state of emergency gives the governor power “to do certain contracting abilities, to close systems, close roads, etc.”

Anyone who’s looked out the window understands the conditions … the snow is combined with very high gusts of wind which makes traveling and the road situation dangerous and difficult. We are keeping an eye on what I consider the worst of mother nature’s wrath, which are flooding conditions in New York City and along Long Island. It poses a real safety consideration, it causes tremendous damage in its aftermath, so we’re keeping an eye on that.

Cuomo says the national guard are “fully deployed”, as are equipment teams, cleanup crews and state police. “Everything that can be done has been done in terms of deployment of resources.”

“The roads are open,” he says. “But that is a deceptive statement. We have not closed the roads. However as I’ve said before, and I can’t say it forcefully enough, unless there is an emergency situation or a critical need, you should not be on the roads.”

They are incredibly dangerous. I don’t care how superb a driver, how big a four-wheel drive vehicle you have, the roads are barely passable. As always happens, our own citizens can create the greatest issues. You go out on the road all it takes is one road to get stuck and the road is not passable, the truck cannot plow.

And the situation quickly descends into chaos. We have seen this time and time again.… I’ve seen situations where people are stranded in cars overnight.

He concludes with a familiar warning: “the roads are technically open. but if you really do not need to leave your house. I can’t stress enough you should not leave your house.”

2.55pm GMT

Some parts of Washington DC are buried in nearly 24in of drifting snow, and 80,000 people in New Jersey have suffered power outages, the AP reports. Some more from their most recent roundup of the storm:

  • Eighteen inches of snow have fallen in Kentucky, where emergency crews are trying to get water, fuel and snacks –to people stranded in cars along Interstate 75. Some people have been trapped in cars for hours on highways in Pennsylvania.
  • Virginia authorities reported 1,000 traffic crashes and another 800 disabled vehicles, and officials have warned people to stay off the roads.
  • Trains and public transit have been shut down in New Jersey, southern-eastern Pennsylvania and Washington DC. New York and Washington DC also closed public libraries and zoos, though New York City has put a small army of “scrapers” to work keeping the subway running, and has 2,400 plows and salt trucks on the streets.
  • The storm could affect more than 50 million people and cause $1bn in damage, National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said.
  • States that have declared a state of emergency include Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.
  • Philadelphia and New York expect at least a foot of snow, if not more.
  • More than 7,600 flights have been canceled at airports hit by the blizzard, though airliners are hoping to be back on schedule by Sunday afternoon.
  • DC police have invited locals to go sledding down Capitol Hill, which recently became legal .

2.21pm GMT

Harry Enten, erstwhile friend of the Guardian and political guru at FiveThirtyEight, also happens to obsess over the weather (especially snow). He’s tweeted out that one weather model has 24in falling in New York City: “I don’t think it’s right, but to give you an idea of this storm is only just beginning …”

“The bottom line is... If I were making a forecast for NYC, I’d go with something like 15 to 30 inches right now. I’m not kidding.”

2.05pm GMT

Flooding is a serious danger for New Jersey, especially in shore towns like Brigantine, where high tide hit around 8am.

Flooding has not quite reached the devastating surge of hurricane Sandy, but it’s serious nonetheless, and could cut some towns off from the rest of the state.

In New York, the conditions are blinding – the wind is strong enough to make the snowflakes sting.

1.56pm GMT

Postcards of the east coast, blizzard edition.

1.43pm GMT

“We’re New Yorkers, we’re tough, but I don’t care how superb a driver you are, I don’t care how great a four-wheel-drive vehicle you have,” was governor Andrew Cuomo’s good morning to New York on CNN this morning.

“My strong advice is unless it’s truly an emergency, people have no business being on the roads.”

Cuomo noted that the National Weather Service increased its predicted snowfall for New York, from 12in to 16-24in. “We’re afraid as the conditions continue to deteriorate that roads could be come impassable and then the situations compounds.”

Kathryn Garcia, New York City’s sanitation commissioner and the woman who leads the city’s small army of plows, salt trucks and crews, also urged people to stay off the roads. “These are conditions that are dangerous for our professional drivers to be in and you really cannot be on the road.”

“This is an extremely difficult storm to fight,” she told the network. “It’s falling so fast that you’re going to face very very difficult conditions.”

Cuomo also explained that his “worst case scenario” of “negative synergy” is flooding. “The snow is one thing, we can deal with snow. It’s the compounding effect and negative synergy if you will. You put the snow together with gusts of wind up to 60mph and you have places like Long Island and coastal areas and flooding.”

He said that he waited to declare a state of emergency in New York until Saturday as to impede commerce as little as possible. “There’s a cost to basically closing New York City, and you really don’t want to do it unless you have to do it. You have to do it when it becomes a public safety issue and this morning i believe it became a public safety issue.”

Governor Chris Christie had a similar message for his state of New Jersey, where in some places the snow is falling 2-3in an hour. Christie said the national guard was on standby and the state ready to handle the storm – but that people should stay home and report power outages immediately to their utility providers and police. He said there are shelters in every county of the state.

“For everybody, please stay inside, please don’t drive today unless it is an absolute emergency.”

Updated at 1.46pm GMT

1.16pm GMT

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the blizzard pummeling the eastern United States, from Arkansas to Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York, where the view outside the Guardian – usually of the Brooklyn Bridge ad the East River – now shows a blizzard.

Ten governors have declared a state of emergency , as did the mayor of Washington DC, a city in the bullseye of the storm. Fourteen inches of snow have fallen on the nation’s capital, there are 21ft waves being reported off the Delaware coast, and life up and down the east coast has slid to a stop.

The National Weather Service has predicted the storm could bring snowfall to rival the biggest blizzards on record, and warned of high surf, gusting winds, and floods for coastal towns and cities. Governors and mayors have warned residents to stay indoors and off the streets for their own safety – and stressed the danger of blinding snow carried by intense winds.

Those dangers were made clear on Friday. North Carolina police reported hundreds of traffic accidents, and authorities in several states attributed eight deaths to the icy roads and weather. Airports around the region canceled more than 7,600 flights, leaving thousands (including several reporters for the Guardian) stuck in travel limbo.

Stay tuned for all the latest as the snowstorm swirls through the lives of some 50 million people.

1.00pm GMT

A reminder from Guardian US style chief Maraithe Thomas, in case you’re wondering why we haven’t anthropomorphized a blizzard.

We do not use the winter storm names that the Weather Channel comes up with. They come up with these names for marketing purposes, and they are not recognized by the National Weather Service.

So this weekend’s blizzard is not called Winter Storm Jonas or Storm Jonas or Jonas. It is just a storm. It’s called storm.

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