New York shuts down, bans travel due to monster 'Snowzilla' storm

A couple take a selfie at Times Square in Manhattan, New York, on Jan 23, 2015.
A couple take a selfie at Times Square in Manhattan, New York, on Jan 23, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - A travel ban was imposed on New York and its suburbs Saturday with authorities effectively shutting down America’s most populous city as a massive snow storm pummelling the eastern United States gathered pace.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed a ban on all local and state roads across the city of 8.4 million residents, Long Island and crossings west to New Jersey from 2.30pm (3.30am on Sunday Singapore time).

Bus services were suspended at noon, and overland commuter and subway trains in and out of Manhattan were to be shut from 4pm as Broadway cancelled performances, museums closed and shops shuttered.

Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie banned travel on bridges and tunnels that connect Manhattan across the Hudson River, including the George Washington Bridge, ordinarily the busiest in the world.

Only authorised emergency vehicles, hazard vehicles and critical health care personnel are permitted to use the roads, officials said.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Cuomo told reporters. “We are doing everything necessary to keep people safe, and I encourage all New Yorkers to wait out the storm indoors.”

 
 

The vast majority of flights into and out of New York area airports – La Guardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark – were also cancelled.

Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that more than 50cm of snow was expected to accumulate in the city and that the storm could prove unprecedented since records began in the 19th century.

“If it goes past 20 inches (50cm), it will be in the top five in terms of accumulation literally in our recorded history,” he said. “This is a very big deal.”

By early afternoon, Central Park had already recorded 37cm of snowfall.

Public transit in Washington was shut down for the weekend as was most rail service in Philadelphia, as the monster storm – dubbed “Snowzilla” – dumped mounds of snow along the US East Coast.

Up to 61cm was expected in several major cities.