A huge snowstorm led to chaos on the east coast of the United States on Monday, canceling thousands of flights, closing schools and forcing the launch of coronavirus vaccinations when New York City stole for possibly one of its heaviest snowfalls ever.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued storm warnings from Virginia to Maine – home to tens of millions of people – as heavy snow mixed with gusts of up to 80 miles per hour spurred snowstorm-like conditions along the east coast.
New York declared a “state of emergency” that restricted unnecessary travel, moved all children back to distance learning and rescheduled long-awaited vaccine shots when the city was in almost 60 cm of snow.
Salt trucks and snow plows moved across the streets of New York, already quieter than usual due to Covid-19, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the few children who had returned to classrooms during the pandemic would also stay home on Tuesday.
“Then come locusts, as we go,” de Blasio, who also interrupted outdoor seating in the latest battle against the city’s obsessed pandemic hit restaurants, told MSNBC.
More than 1,600 US flights were canceled – mostly at airports in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington – disrupting travel that has already been severely restricted by the pandemic.
The airlines canceled all flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport and JFK Airport, while 71 percent of the flights were scrapped at Newark Liberty Airport.
Covid-19 vaccinations for New York would also be stopped on Tuesday.
“This is a dangerous, life-threatening situation,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters.
By 4 p.m. Monday, 15.3 inches of snow had been recorded in Central Park, according to the NWS, with eight inches falling in just six hours.
Snowfall was expected to continue until Tuesday morning, with forecasters predicting a total of 20 inches before the storm moves northeast through New England.
If so much falls in the Big Apple, it would be the city’s eighth biggest snowstorm since records began in 1869.
“This is expected to be one of the major snowfall events for New York City,” Matthew Wunsch, a national weather forecast, told AFP.
The most snowfall that had covered America’s commercial capital was 27.5 inches in three days in January 2016.
In Washington, where snow and ice have been forming since Sunday, President Joe Biden has postponed a scheduled visit to the State Department because of the conditions.
The capital drove back to Tuesday a planned return to school for tens of thousands of children who have been studying at home for almost a year due to the pandemic.
Heavy snowfall also spun New Jersey, Philadelphia and Connecticut.
New Jersey issued a state of emergency that allowed authorities to close roads, evacuate homes and commanders needed for public safety.
“This storm will get worse before it gets better,” Governor Phil Murphy tweeted, adding that six vaccination megacities in the state would remain closed on Tuesday.
Philadelphia also declared a snow emergency, closed the city’s government buildings for Monday and ordered residents to move their cars from snow emergency lanes so the plow could get through.
In a suburb of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a couple in their fifties were shot dead by their neighbor during an argument over moving snow in front of their house, the local police chief told AFP.
The shooter took his own life when the police came to arrest him, he added.
The storm hit mountainous parts of California with more than six meters of snow and heavy rain last week.
It then moved to the Midwest and dumped about eight inches of snow in Chicago, according to the NWS.