The blizzard of 2015 has made its blustery entrance on the East Coast of the United States, shutting down airports, subways, buses, businesses and roads in the northeast. The snowfall is predicted to reach historic levels, causing mayors and governors in the region to issue travel bans on vehicular traffic on the roads and highways except for emergency vehicles and snow plows. They urge people to park their cars at home and stay there until the storm is over. With flights cancelled, public transportation shut down and roads off limits, northeast residents have little choice but to stock up on emergency supplies, sit tight and wait out the blizzard.
The nor’easter winds have been building up to hurricane strength off the southern coast of New England bringing thickening snowfall to Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maine and New York City starting Monday evening. The National Weather Service (NWS) says whiteout conditions are possible with the turbulent winds gusting to 35 miles per hour or more. The snowfall could last as long as 36 hours in some areas, according to meteorologists. Therefore, they issued blizzard warning for Maine and New Jersey and northward along the Canadian coast as well.
Predictions of two to three feet of snow, hurricane-force winds, and coastal flooding could also result in power outages that make it very dangerous to be on the roads, rails or in the air while the blizzard is in force. The treacherous conditions and the NWS blizzard warning prompted governors in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency and shut down public transportation after 11:oo p.m. and close the roads to all but police, fire and ambulance. Not even cabs or food delivery services can be on the road, meaning those who depend on takeout food will get a sink-or-swim lesson in cooking at home. New York drivers who try to brave the elements on the icy roads will be subject to a $300 fine.
East Coast air travel has also temporarily been interrupted as airlines have cancelled more than 6,500 flights. Logan Airport in Boston, T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., New York’s LaGuardia Airport and others along the northeastern seaboard shut down Monday evening and early Tuesday, not allowing planes to take off or land. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported that there will be “minimal flight activity” from airports in the northeast region due to the hazardous conditions precipitated by the blizzard of 2015. Passengers can check with their airline for details on rebooking their flights and most airlines are waiving the penalty fees for changing their reservations due to the blizzard shutdown.
Electrical outage reports began to trickle in Monday night, including a Stony Brook University residence hall, with more power outages expected as the blizzard continues to rage. Gas stations were busy Monday morning stocking gas cans to run their customers’ generators. Hotels are booked to capacity with stranded airline passengers. New York closed the tunnels and the bridges as well and Amtrak cut back its services to the New England region.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo urge people not to take the storm dangers lightly as it will not be the typical Big Apple snowstorm. Mr. de Blasio expects it to hit hard and fast, dumping record amounts of snow amidst torrential winds causing great snow swirls to limit visibility adding to the perils of travel. He strongly recommends safety over convenience and makes it clear that it is not “business as usual” so people should take every possible precautionary measure to protect themselves during the storm, including stocking up on food and emergency supplies for humans and pets and staying home. He says employers should be generous and flexible, not stingy, with employees to ensure their safety rather than risking their lives to come into work.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser