Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

East coast streets deserted as ‘historic’ snowstorm hits US

A huge snowstorm launched into northeastern United States late on Monday, shutting down public transport, cancelling thousands of flights and leaving roads and streets deserted as snow blanketed an area that’s home to tens of millions of people.

Authorities ordered drivers off the streets in New York and other cities like Boston in the face of a storm that forecasters warned could reach historic proportions, dumping up to a metre of snow in some areas.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it’s “most likely to be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City”.

More than 7 100 flights were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, as Manhattan was abandoned by panicked commuters rushing home early, leaving behind eerily quiet snowy streets.

New York shut its transit system at 11pm, made non-emergency road travel a criminal offence in 13 counties and closed tunnels and bridges connecting Manhattan to New Jersey. 

“It could be a matter of life and death, and that’s not being overly dramatic, so caution is required,” New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo warned.

Times Square deserted
CNN broadcast footage of New York’s Times Square empty but for snow plows and the odd pedestrian. Up and down the city’s broad avenues, traffic lights were red, one after another.

In New York City, the subway last closed for Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which killed more than 200 people and caused months-long power cuts.

With New England expected to be the worst affected by the “north-eastern,” public transit was also shut down in Boston, as authorities implored residents used to winter storms to stay off the roads.

“Whiteout conditions and treacherous roads will make driving anywhere extremely dangerous,” Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker said as he declared a state of emergency at mid-day. “I can’t stress this part enough: Please stay off the roads.”

States of emergency were declared in states across the affected region as residents rushed to supermarkets to stockpile food.

“I have nothing to eat, I need some food. Who knows if tomorrow I’m going to leave my house,” said boutique worker Rosa Ramirez, queuing outside an upmarket Whole Foods store in Manhattan.

“What I do not know is how long I’ll have to wait,” she said, as snow and icy wind gusted through the queue of shoppers.

New York’s famed Broadway and top music venues – including Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera – shelved performances. NBA games were also postponed.

Commuters’ nightmare
The worst snow was expected to fall overnight which, combined with winds of up to 112 kilometres an hour, will paralyse swaths of the coast.

As well as blizzard warnings, flood warnings are also in effect, with officials warning against power outages and falling trees.

Cuomo called out several hundred National Guard for New York and Long Island, which juts out into the Atlantic.

At 11pm he announced the travel ban on all roads in 13 counties had become into effect and that the city’s MTA public transit had been suspended until further notice.

Those caught out on the roads after the cut-off point would be liable for fines, Cuomo said.

Officials said virtually all flights at New York’s LaGuardia airport would be cancelled on Tuesday and that JFK International Airport would also see significant cancellations.

Boston’s Logan international airport will see no flights from Monday evening until Wednesday afternoon.

Weather reports indicated snowfall would likely fall short, however, of the city’s record 68 centimetres following a 16-hour storm in February 2006.

United Nations closes
“Recognise this as an emergency,” de Blasio cautioned. “You can’t underestimate this storm. It’s not a typical storm, its going to pack a real punch.”

Schools will be closed on Tuesday and scheduled examinations cancelled.

The United Nations closed its headquarters early and was to remain shut, forcing the cancellation on Tuesday of an important event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust.

Meteorologists said the storm would bring crippling conditions and warned that 28-million people were in the possible blizzard zone. – AFP

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Jennie Matthew
Matthews is an AFP New York correspondent. Previously in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Sudan and Middle East

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

Hawkish Reserve Bank sees South Africa edge towards a rates...

Analysts say the Reserve Bank could start tightening monetary policy as early as next month

More top stories

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

Greenpeace investigation exposes countries trying to dilute climate report

Greenpeace team says it has obtained leaked records of countries asking scientists to water down upcoming scientific report on climate change

Zondo responds to Fraser’s objection to his nomination as chief...

The deputy chief justice said all the former spy boss had to do to respond to bombshell testimony implicating him in state capture was to apply for a turn to testify

Immunocompromised finally prioritised for Covid-19 booster shots

Organ recipients are at greater risk of death from Covid-19, while waiting lists for transplants grow
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×