New York, Boston and US Northeast brace for possibly historic snowstorm

A woman crosses a road during a winter snowstorm in Somerville, Massachusetts over the weekend. The US Northeast, including New York and Boston, is bracing for a  snowstorm that may be of historic proportions starting today, the National Weather
A woman crosses a road during a winter snowstorm in Somerville, Massachusetts over the weekend. The US Northeast, including New York and Boston, is bracing for a  snowstorm that may be of historic proportions starting today, the National Weather Service said on Friday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG)- What may be a historic snow storm could bring blizzard conditions to large parts of the United States Northeast while dropping as much as 90 centimetres of snow on New York, New Jersey and Long Island and as much as 60 centimetres through eastern New England, including Boston, threatening travel delays, school cancellations and blackouts.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warned residents to prepare as the impending snow storm threatens to be the biggest in the city's history.

All city agencies are on high alert as New York sanitation workers scramble to maintain 6,000 miles of road, the mayor said Sunday at a press conference.

The storm is expected to bring blizzard conditions to New York and other parts of the US Northeast, threatening travel delays, school cancellations and blackouts.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will bring on extra personnel who will work 12-hour shifts as it prepares to maintain operations at its airports, tunnels, bridges and train systems, according to an e-mailed statement.

"We expect to have a serious problem on our hands," de Blasio said at the press conference. "New Yorkers should not underestimate this storm."

The snow and rain will begin Sunday night in Mid-Atlantic states, where Baltimore and Washington may get as much as 15 centimetres, according to the National Weather Service. The storm will then strengthen rapidly and bring its heaviest amounts from New York into New England.

"The system will deepen rapidly Monday through Tuesday," said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the US Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland. "There are some blizzard watches on Long Island and eastern Massachusetts; that is because not only is heavy snow forecast but the wind is going to pick up."

In addition to the blizzard watches, which have also been posted for along New Jersey's coast into New England, including New York City, winter storm warnings, watches and advisories stretch from central Indiana to Maine, the weather service said. The storm will strike one of the most densely populated parts of the country that contains hubs for road, rail and air transportation.

At least seven major airports, including Newark Liberty International and New York's LaGuardia Airport, are in the path of the storm and Amtrak's Acela service, along with regional commuter rail operations, will be affected. Interstate 95 parallels the US East Coast from Maine to Florida.

New York City has an estimated population of 8.4 million and Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island have about 2.9 million residents, according to the US Census Bureau. The city has a 70 percent chance of getting more than 8 inches of snow and a 55 per cent chance of receiving greater than a foot, the weather service said.

The greatest impact on Boston commuter rail and rapid transit will probably occur on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said on its website. The transit authority may reduce its schedules at the height of the storm.

A high wind watch has also been posted for Cape Cod. Gusts may reach 113 kilometres per hour, , the weather service said.

"Powerful winds may result in downed trees and power outages," the weather service said. "This is especially true where heavy wet snow accumulates adding to the potential for wind damage."

Flurries will begin in New York late Sunday and snow will build during the day on Monday.

"The heaviest snow won't come until Monday night into Tuesday," said Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.

If the storm strengthens more rapidly, snow totals in Washington and Baltimore could rise, Hurley said.

Through most of January, the Northeast US has been spared any major snowstorms. A small system moved through during Saturday.

"As dull has it had been for the Eastern Seaboard for the last couple of weeks that is going to change," Hurley said.