New Yorks Second Noreaster in a Week Is Strengthening

New York’s second nor’easter in a week is already snarling traffic, grounding thousands of flights and taking out power to thousands — and the worst has yet to come.

Meteorologists had earlier forecast that New York City would be hit with from 6 to 10 inches of snow. Now they’re predicting 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) as the storm moves north, said Faye Morrone, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. The system’s already producing thunder and lightning — an indication of its growing strength.

“There could be one-to-two-inch-an-hour accumulation rates through the afternoon into the evening commute before it starts to taper off,” Morrone said. “It will not be a fun time to be out on the road.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to leave work early to avoid the deluge during rush hour. New Jersey Transit suspended state-wide commuter bus service at 4:30 p.m.

Transportation woes have spread to the wider world as well. Airlines had canceled 2,677 flights as of 3:45 p.m. local time, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. Another 334 have been scrubbed for Thursday. Amtrak has also dropped some train trips between Washington, New York and Boston. Winter storm warnings, as well as coastal flood warnings and advisories spread from Maryland to Maine.

$1 Billion in Damages

Just last week another nor’easter grounded thousands of flights, halted Amtrak rail services, left more than 2 million customers in the dark from Ohio to Maine and devastated the Massachusetts coastline north and south of Boston. Damages from that storm may exceed $1 billion in insured losses, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

The latest system comes on the cusp of spring, which begins March 20. Its winds and waves won’t be as destructive as the first, but it’ll probably dump more snow on people along the coast.

Read More: Who Pays Cost of Mother Nature’s Destructive Fury: QuickTake Q&A

Metro-North Railroad has reduced schedules on its lines in the Hudson Valley, Connecticut and to points west. New Jersey Transit is operating many of its lines on a severe weather schedule. Ferry service was suspended.

Cutting Power

At least 133,827 customers were without power from Maryland to Massachusetts, some still waiting for the lights to come back on after last week’s storm, according to a survey of utility and state websites. Many are on the path to get the worst of this latest storm, too. That could cause even more to lose electricity, according to Rob Carolan, a meteorologist with Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Late-season storms can actually do more damage to power lines than storms that hit in the dead of winter, according to Shunondo Basu, meteorologist and natural gas analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The warmer air is able to hold more moisture, which brings heavier, wetter snow — and sleet — than the fluffy flakes that tend to fall in January.

Philadelphia could get 10 inches of snow, while cities and towns to the northwest may get more than a foot, the weather service said. Snow totals have begun to pile up around the region, as of 2:30 p.m., Monroe, New York, about 50 miles northwest of the Manhattan, had 10.5 inches on the ground, while West Milford, New Jersey got 10 inches, the weather service said.

The forecast for Boston has crept up during the day, with 7 inches predicted for the city and more than a foot for its northern and western suburbs.

Other storm highlights:

  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency, limiting travel.
  • New York put 700 salt spreaders and 1,560 plows in action to keep city streets clear.
  • The high angle of the sun, along with relatively mild temperatures expected after the snow stops, will probably speed melting, Basu said. Meanwhile, ski resorts in the interior Northeast and New England “are going to have a ball” with the snowfall.
  • Morrone said the sun should return Thursday with temperatures rising to at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius). That should help with cleanup.
  • Actual snow totals will depend on how much rain mixes in, said Hometown Forecast’s Carolan. A band of heavy snow will probably develop as the storm moves up the East Coast, providing “a primary conveyor belt” into New York, he said. 
  • New York is set for the heaviest snowfall from about 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., said Carolan, who provides forecasts for Bloomberg radio.
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