Powerful winter storm pummels eastern US, grounding thousands of flights

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A powerful winter storm packing heavy snow and high winds pummeled the US East Coast Saturday, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights as severe weather alerts were sounded across a region of around 70 million people.

With blizzard warnings in effect, cities like New York and Boston bore the brunt of the storm Saturday morning, but the far-reaching system also hit the Mid-Atlantic.

Freeze alerts were raised as far south as Florida, where the National Weather Service (NWS) warned of “scattered to isolated falling iguanas from trees” as plunging temperatures temporarily paralyzed the large lizards, which can weigh up to 20 pounds (nine kilograms).

Salt machines and snowplows crawled along the streets of New York, where as much as four inches (10 centimeters) of snow had fallen by Saturday morning.

Mayor Eric Adams had tweeted Friday that a foot (30 centimeters) of snow was predicted, and warned that “Mother Nature has a tendency to do what she wants.”

He urged New Yorkers to stay home if possible.

Some 3,500 flights were canceled for Saturday traveling within, into or out of the United States, according to flight tracker FlightAware, and 701 flights have already been canceled for Sunday.

Cancellations on Friday totalled more than 1,450.

The NWS warned of “dangerous blizzard conditions” along portions of the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, with predicted snowfall accumulations of more than two feet in the area around Boston.

Snowfall rate would range from two to four inches per hour, and strong winds would cause “scattered power outages.”

“Expect whiteout conditions and nearly impossible travel at times,” the service said.


The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency, while Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a snow emergency.

“It is going to get quite ugly out there,” she said in an early-morning television interview from City Hall.

“This is going to be a historic storm.”

Massachusetts residents had rushed Friday to buy groceries, as well as snow- and ice-melting pellets to help keep their sidewalks and driveways clear.

By early Saturday morning, Boston Public Works said 500 snow plows were already hard at work on the city streets.

The storm will produce extremely cold temperatures with dangerous wind chills Saturday night into Sunday morning, the NWS said.

“Get home safely tonight, remain home over the weekend, avoid any unnecessary travel,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement, singling out Long Island, New York City and the lower Hudson Valley for particularly deep snow.

She also urged people who had to travel to fill their car gas tanks and keep supplies such as ice scrapers, blankets and water in their vehicles.

The NWS Eastern Region reported Friday that the storm was expected to intensify rapidly over the next 24 hours, a meteorological event sometimes referred to as a “bomb cyclone.”

The blizzard comes on the heels of a similar winter storm that blanketed a swath of Eastern North America — from Georgia to Canada — just two weeks ago, cutting power to thousands of homes and also disrupting thousands of flights.

(AFP)

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