Winter storm Juno brings bustling New York to an eerie shutdown

A man shopping for water in preparation for a large winter storm in New York, New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A man shopping for water in preparation for a large winter storm in New York, New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
People waiting at a bus stop during heavy snow in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People waiting at a bus stop during heavy snow in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Children playing in Central Park as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Children playing in Central Park as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
People crossing a city street in a snow storm in New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
People crossing a city street in a snow storm in New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Mr Arthur Hursan (left) and Mr Eduardo Durante sitting together after their flight to New York was cancelled at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Mr Arthur Hursan (left) and Mr Eduardo Durante sitting together after their flight to New York was cancelled at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A worker pushing a snow blower down Lexington Avenue near Grand Central Terminal as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A worker pushing a snow blower down Lexington Avenue near Grand Central Terminal as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The streets are largely empty as heavy snow began to barrel into the financial district of Manhattan on Monday in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP 
The streets are largely empty as heavy snow began to barrel into the financial district of Manhattan on Monday in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Commuters standing under an umbrella in Times Square, New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Commuters standing under an umbrella in Times Square, New York on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - With deserted train stations and eerily empty streets, winter storm Juno emptied New York, the "city that never sleeps."

Mr Joseph Burke, a lawyer who lives in the suburbs, was waiting in the frigid lobby of Grand Central Terminal. The station is one of the hubs of public transport in New York, but on Monday evening - the usually frantic rush hour - the famous terminal was nearly dead.

"Usually I go back home around 6-6.30 pm, but today I'm leaving a couple of hours earlier," said Mr Burke, seemingly one of the few left in the mad dash to avoid the worst Mother Nature could hurl at the Big Apple.

The arrival of the mega snow storm was billed by authorities in New York as one of the most severe ever seen.

It triggered exceptional safety measures including the halting of public transport. Road travel was made a criminal offence in thirteen counties of New York state, such were the fears about the storm's impact.

Like many New Yorkers, Mr Burke planned to follow the advice of the city's Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor of the State of New York Andrew Cuomo, and stay at home on Tuesday.

SOURCE: NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

Officials said preparation for the blizzard was a matter of life and death. They warned of power outages and falling trees. The National Guard was also mobilised.

At Union Square, in the heart of usually bustling Manhattan, the vast underground station was empty - as was the above-ground park.

In addition to disrupting the lives of New Yorkers, the rapid snow fall and plunging temperatures of minus 2 deg C shook up the plans of tourists in the city.

Sightseeing hot spots such as the Brooklyn Bridge, usually thronging with camera-wielding visitors and locals, were devoid of people.

More than 6,500 flights were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday in the US, many in the city's three area airports JFK, Newark and LaGuardia.

Shows on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera were casualties of the extreme weather, as were NBA basketball games. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, another big tourist draw, will remain closed on Tuesday.

But for some people, the storm had an upside.

"We received an e-mail from the company saying that the flight was cancelled," said French tourists Sylvain and Marine Royer.

"So suddenly we can take in snow and New York for three more days!"

SOURCE: NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION

Rush on food

If there were people to be found, it was at the high-end grocery store Whole Foods Market, where many had assembled to grab last-minute supplies in case they were trapped in by the snow.

"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. "What I do not know is how long I'll have to wait."

People grumbled and shivered as snow and icy wind gusts swirled around them.

A Whole Foods employee said they had a line outside the store all day.

"But it's moving quickly. So far we have enough stock for everybody," the worker said.

"Today we are closing at 8.00 pm, three hours earlier than usual, to ensure team members and shoppers can get home safe."