NYC Faces Foot of Snow as Winter Storm Bears Down on Northeast

A major winter storm is zeroing in on more than 51 million people in the eastern U.S. and may bring New York City its heaviest December snow in 10 years.

New York could get 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) of snow starting late Wednesday through Thursday morning, according to theNational Weather Service. The worst of the storm will likely strike the city after midnight and start tapering off around 8 a.m., said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services in Nashua, New Hampshire. Areas to the west will probably get hit even harder.

“The bumper amounts are still eastern Pennsylvania. Someone out there is going to get 18 inches and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the Poconos gets two feet,” Carolan said. “They’re going to get hammered out there.”

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As of 8 a.m. Eastern Time, more than 520 flights had been canceled around the U.S., the bulk of them from Washington’s Dulles International Airport and Newark’s Liberty International Airport, according toFlightAware, an airline tracking company based in Houston.

Winter storm warnings stretch from North Carolina to Maine, affecting more than 51 million people. Snow, sleet and freezing rain will likely tie up air and ground travel, and trigger power outages across the region. The storm will hit as trucks carrying Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine from Michigan disperse across the U.S. and carriers toil with piles of holiday packages.

In New York, officials said the weather will have little impact on vaccination efforts.

“New York City has developed a plan to ensure vaccines continue to be delivered, stored, and administered safely as this storm hits the city,” said Bill Neidhardt, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “NYC Emergency Management is poised to assist vaccine deliveries if the need arises, which hopefully won’t.”

The city will allow restaurants to continue operating on sidewalks, if possible, but they must shut curbside dining during the storm. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, restaurants must close any temporary structures that extend from sidewalks into the street.

Motorists are being urged to stay off city streets for the next two days, for their safety and to facilitate plowing. “We’re very concerned about a lot of traffic coming in and then having a lot of problems getting out,” de Blasio said. “Thursday morning could be a big mess.”

There probably won’t be as much snow furthern south. Washington could get 1 to 2 inches, with Baltimore getting 3 inches and Philadelphia 6 inches.

“It should be a classic winter nor’easter,” said Zack Taylor, a forecaster with the U.S.Weather Prediction Center. “The sweet spot looks like central Pennsylvania up through central New York,” which could get as much as 20 inches or more.

Heavy snow will also sweep across New England with Boston potentially receiving 10 to 15 inches overnight into Thursday. That would be the most since March 2018 when the city got 14.5 inches.

If the forecast bears out, this would be the heaviest December snowfall in New York’s Central Park since 2010, when the city was buried under 20.1 inches, according to weather service records. It will also beat last winter’s total snowfall, which only amounted to 4.8 inches.

Winter storms caused $2.1 billion in insured losses across the U.S. last year and about $3 billion in 2018, according to Munich Re. Snowy and icy weather snarls airline, highway and rail traffic, and can trigger power outages and hinder retail sales. In 2019, 13 people died across the U.S. from winter weather, according to the National Weather Service.

In 2020, natural disasters worldwide caused $76 billion in insured losses, an increase of 40% from the year before, according to a newly released study by Swiss Re Group. While 2020 saw a record 30 hurricanes and tropical storms across the Atlantic, the majority of the losses were from thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail, along with wildfires in the western U.S.

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