(Updates death toll in third paragraph, flight cancellations in sixth.)
By Brian K. Sullivan
Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Wind-driven snow whipped through New York’s streets and piled up in Boston as a fast-moving storm brought near-blizzard conditions to parts of the Northeast, closing roads, grounding flights and shutting schools.
Some of the lowest temperatures in decades will follow the system, forecasters said. The storm left 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow on Manhattan’s Central Park by 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Boston’s Logan International Airport reported 14.6 inches, said Nicole Belk, a weather service meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.
At least 11 people died, most in traffic accidents blamed on slick roads, according to the Associated Press. A 71-year-old woman froze to death in western New York and a worker was crushed when a pile of road salt fell on him at a suburban Philadelphia storage site, AP said.
As the snow tapers off through the day, temperatures in the teens will drop and gusty winds will make conditions feel even colder, said Joey Picca, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.
“As we head into the afternoon with the wind still gusting, there is going to be considerable blowing snow given how powdery it is,” Picca said. “It may seem like it is still snowing to people walking around. Wind chills will be below zero as we head through the day. It’s pretty much a terrible day to be outside.”
The storm contributed to 2,351 flights within, into or out of the U.S. being canceled and 3,381 delayed as of 2 p.m. New York time, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service. Yesterday, 2,367 flights were scrubbed.
Schools in New York City and Boston closed.
Amtrak canceled some trains between Boston and Washington. The Long Island Rail Road operated on a weekend schedule and MetroNorth on a Saturday schedule, according to a statement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the highest snow accumulation total in the city was 6.5 inches. Wind chills may be 5 to 15 below zero Fahrenheit (minus 21 to minus 26 Celsius), he said.
Today’s high in New York is expected to reach 16 and then fall to 2 tonight, according to the weather service.
“This has been and remains a dangerous storm,” de Blasio said. “The best things people can do are to stay off the roads so we can clear them as fast as possible, and to check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbors who might need help this morning.”
Boston will only reach 12 today with a low of zero tonight. In Philadelphia, the high will be about 23 with a low of 4, and in Washington readings will be 23 for a high and a low of 11.
On average, temperatures across parts of the Northeast may reach their lowest point in 20 years or even longer, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
“Tonight, everything that you need to produce record or near-record temperatures are present: New snow cover, clear skies, arctic high,” Carolan said. “Temperatures are going to drop like a stone.”
Boston’s record low temperature for the day is minus 4, and that mark could fall overnight, Carolan said. The cold air is being drawn into the region in part by the passing storm.
Picca said that while records will have to be rechecked, preliminary indications are that blizzard conditions weren’t reached in New York or on Long Island. To be a blizzard, a storm has to have visibility of under one-quarter mile and winds of 35 miles per hour for at least three hours.
Belk said the records would have to be reviewed for coastal New England as well.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered state offices to remain closed today, warning that temperatures outside were “very, very dangerous.” Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared states of emergency.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell also closed offices for the day, according to a statement. Wilmington, Delaware, received at least 3.8 inches of snow.
Blowing and drifting powdery snow will make travel conditions “extremely dangerous,” the weather service said in a blizzard warning, adding that “strong winds and very cold wind chills” were expected through this afternoon. The threat of whiteout conditions prompted Cuomo to order the Long Island Expressway closed at midnight. It reopened at about 8 a.m.
Coastal flooding closed roads in Massachusetts, including in Boston and Quincy. Voluntary evacuations were recommended in low-lying areas of Scituate and Duxbury, two coastal towns where high tides are expected, according to Patrick.