A woman buys an umbrella in New York's Times Square as a storm sweeps across the mid-Atlantic states and New England on Tuesday. The National Weather Service said the storm could bring 20 to 30 centimetres of snow to Philadelphia and New York City, and more than 30 cm in Boston. Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Thousands of flights were cancelled, students got an extra day off from school or were being sent home early, and the federal government closed its offices in the Washington area Tuesday as a winter storm bore down on the mid-Atlantic and northeast states.
The National Weather Service said the storm could bring 25 to 35 centimetres of snow to Philadelphia and southern New England and up to 30 centimetres in New York City, to be followed by bitter cold. An arctic air mass will plunge the eastern half of the United States into a deep freeze, with wind chills as low as –40 C, the weather service said.
It warned of heavy winds and hazardous driving conditions as the storm moved up the East Coast. The same storm system is expected to reach Atlantic Canada by Wednesday, bringing heavy snow and strong winds.
With federal workers told to stay home, Tom Ripley, who works at a Washington hardware store, said his morning commute was cut in half because "there was almost no one on the road."
He said the store was jammed Monday as customers stocked up on ice melt and shovels.
"Nobody prepares because we never get any snow, so the slightest chance of it, everybody freaks out," Ripley said.
Flights cancelled, delayed
Nearly 2,200 flights were cancelled and thousands more delayed Tuesday, with airports from Washington to Boston affected, according to flight-tracking site Flightaware.com. An additional 450 flights for Wednesday were already cancelled.
Pearson Airport said that some flights to and from the Eastern U.S. could also be affected due to the weather and advised passengers to check flight schedules in advance.
Schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky stayed closed for an extra day after Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, or planned to send students home early. Some parents kept their kids home even if their schools were open, unwilling to put them on slippery roads.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was forced to modify his schedule of inaugural events — cancelling an evening party on Ellis Island — because there was fear snow would make travel dangerous. Both chambers of Delaware's General Assembly cancelled sessions as the storm approached. Pennsylvania authorities reduced speeds on interstates and other major roads.