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Storm Cancels Flights Across South, Aims for New York

Storm Cancels Flights Across South, Aims for New York
A man clears snow in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Photographer: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The New York City area may receive 6 to 12 inches of snow from a storm that has crippled air traffic in Atlanta and prompted officials across the South to urge people to stay off the roads.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and AirTran Holdings Inc. canceled most of their flights to and from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport, after 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow blanketed the area overnight.

That system will combine with another by tomorrow and move up the East Coast with heavy snow that will disrupt travel, said Allan Huffman, a meteorologist for AirDat LLC in North Carolina, which installs weather-gathering sensors on commercial aircraft.

“I would expect travel to be difficult up and down the East Coast for the next two or three days,” said Meredith Croke, also a meteorologist for AirDat. “Atlanta is a mess right now because they are not used to handling snow.”

Delta scrubbed 1,450 flights today, or about 25 percent of its regular schedule, with the “overwhelming bulk” into and out of Atlanta, said Anthony Black, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based carrier. Delta and its regional partners account for about two-thirds of passengers in Atlanta, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Hartsfield-Jackson handles about 88 million passengers a year.

Georgia Emergencies

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed declared states of emergency and urged people to stay indoors and avoid driving. Hundreds of schools, government offices and businesses were closed, and thousands were without power.

Sanford ordered 120 National Guard troops to help clear roads and respond to accidents.

Some roads in northern Alabama also have been closed, according to the state’s Department of Transportation.

Huntsville, Alabama, recorded its third-largest snowfall, with 8.9 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The record was 17.1 inches set Dec. 31, 1963, into Jan. 1, 1964, the agency said.

As of 1:30 p.m. East Coast time, 12.5 inches of snow had fallen in western North Carolina, according to the weather service. Pickens County, in South Carolina, reported 9 inches as of 12:27 p.m.

Alerts Posted

Winter weather advisories and storm warnings stretch from New Mexico to Virginia and cover all or part of 21 states, according to the weather service. A winter storm watch for tomorrow’s system stretches from Virginia to New Hampshire and includes New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.

“We’re looking at another significant snowfall with 6 or more inches of snow,” said Brian Ciemnecki, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York. “There’s a pretty strong storm system moving through the southeastern portion of the U.S. and that low is expected to move off the southeast coast and take a track northeast.”

As much as 12 inches may fall in New York and its suburbs in New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut, according to the weather service.

“The key accumulating period is tomorrow night into Wednesday morning,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC, a commercial forecaster in Bethesda, Maryland. “I don’t think it will be as bad as the Christmas storm, but it will definitely be worse than last week’s little guy.”

Last Big Storm

A winter storm struck New York and the Northeast the day after Christmas, dropping at least 20 inches of snow on Central Park and forcing the cancellation of more than 8,000 flights.

The Dec. 26-27 storm left some New York City streets unplowed for days and garbage pickups backlogged. It cost New York at least $20 million of its $38.8 million snow-removal budget, according to the city’s Sanitation Department.

The storm currently bringing snow and ice across the South will merge with one making its way across the Ohio Valley, Huffman said.

That combined system will move up the East Coast, said Travis Hartman, a meteorologist with MDA Federal Inc.’s EarthSat Energy Weather in Rockville, Maryland.

‘Impressive-Looking System’

“As the low approaches the Jersey coast, rapid intensification is seen to commence which will help bring heavier snow falls to New York City, Connecticut, Rhode Island and into Massachusetts,” Hartman said. “Models have begun to converge on a pretty impressive-looking system.”

In Philadelphia, the forecast calls for 4 or more inches of snow to start falling tomorrow. Boston can expect to receive from 7 to 12 inches of snow, according to the weather service.

Snow will probably start in Boston tomorrow before midnight and then continue through the next day, said Alan Dunham, a weather service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.

“The Wednesday morning commute is going to be pretty much a nightmare all over,” Dunham said of Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

After the snow leaves, southern New England will be clear and cold, with maybe a snow shower, through the weekend, when the National Football League’s New England Patriots will host the New York Jets in the second round of the American Football Conference playoffs.

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