A powerful winter storm accompanied by heavy snow and high winds hit the US east coast, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights as severe weather warnings sounded in the region of nearly 70 million people.
With blizzard warnings in effect, cities like New York and Boston bore the brunt of the storm Saturday morning, but the wide-ranging system also battered the mid-Atlantic.
Frost alerts have been issued as far south as Florida, where the National Weather Service (NWS) has warned of ‘lone iguanas falling from trees’ as plunging temperatures temporarily paralyze large lizards, which can weigh up to 20 pounds (9 kg).
Salt machines and snowplows crawled through the streets of New York City, where as much as 10cm of snow had fallen Saturday morning.
Mayor Eric Adams urged New Yorkers to stay home, tweeting a video of him walking outside in the borough of the Bronx.
“It’s a good day to stay home if you don’t have to go out!” he said.
On the ground in the Bronx. It’s a good day to stay home if you don’t have to go out! pic.twitter.com/mFEqJpQpq0
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMaire) January 29, 2022
On Saturday, more than 3,500 flights were canceled within, to or from the United States, according to flight tracker FlightAware, and 847 flights have already been canceled for Sunday.
Cancellations on Friday totaled more than 1,450.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from New York, said some public transportation had been suspended.
“Right now here in New York it’s minus nine degrees Celsius. The subway system is still operating here. But a lot of trains, buses and other types of public transportation have been suspended,” he said. he adds.
Elizondo said weather experts said there were fears of coastal flooding if the storm continued, which was already happening in southern New Jersey.
The NWS warned of ‘dangerous blizzard conditions’ along parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, with forecast snowfall accumulations of more than 2ft (61cm) in the area around Boston.
The rate of snowfall would range from 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) per hour, and strong winds would cause “scattered power outages”.
“Expect whiteout conditions and nearly impossible travel at times,” the service said.
The governors of New York and New Jersey have declared states of emergency, while Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a snow emergency.
“It’s going to get pretty ugly out there,” she said in an early morning TV interview from City Hall.
“This is going to be a historic storm.”
Massachusetts residents had rushed Friday to buy groceries, as well as snow and ice removal pellets to help keep their sidewalks and driveways clear.
Early Saturday morning, Boston Public Works said 500 snow plows were already hard at work on city streets.
The storm will produce extremely cold temperatures with dangerous wind chills from Saturday evening through Sunday morning, the NWS said.
“Return home safely tonight, stay home on the weekend, avoid unnecessary travel,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement, pointing to Long Island, New York and the Lower Valley. of the Hudson for particularly deep snow.
She also urged people who had to travel to fill their car’s gas tank and keep supplies such as ice scrapers, blankets and water in their vehicles.
The NWS Eastern Region reported on Friday that the storm is expected to intensify rapidly over the next 24 hours, a weather event sometimes referred to as a “bomb cyclone.”
The blizzard follows a similar winter storm that blanketed parts of eastern North America from Georgia to Canada just two weeks ago, knocking out power to thousands of homes and disrupting also thousands of flights.