After a mercifully mild winter in most parts of the US, the Northeast is feeling the first effects of a developing blizzard that threatens to snarl travel for tens of millions in the region. Besides blizzard conditions, gusting winds, and freezing rain, the massive nor’easter dubbed “Nemo” is bringing flight cancellations, mass transit closures, and road and rail complications.
“We’re taking this storm very seriously and you should take this storm very seriously,” Jerome Hauer, commissioner of New York’s division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “This is a dangerous storm with a lot of blowing snow, and very significant winds that will make travel Friday night into Saturday almost impossible.”
“Meteorologists are warning everyone to get home by lunch [Friday], because heavy, blinding snowfall is likely to make travel impossible once the storm begins,” The Weather Channel said Friday. “It’s possible travel could be disrupted for several days.”
Here’s what travelers can expect, from road and rail to flights and mass transit:
Freezing rain and blinding snow could make for dangerous driving conditions on roadways across the Northeast, leading many officials to ask residents to stay home.
“Once the storm hits and conditions worsen, stay off the roads if at all possible,” says Heather Hunter, a press representative with AAA. “Keep abreast of local weather reports and heed local advisories,” Ms. Hunter adds.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency Friday and banned cars from roads as of 4 p.m., The Boston Globe reported. The emergency would allow the state to “take appropriate steps to mobilize state assets,” the governor said.
In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino also urged residents to stay off the roads. “This is going to be a very serious storm,” Mayor Menino said in a statement. “I want to stress that the best thing everyone can do Friday and Saturday is to stay home. Stay off the roads, stay safe.”
Heavy snow and rapid accumulations could make for treacherous road conditions along local, state, and inter-state routes, with officials warning of hazardous conditions on major thoroughfares including I-95 and I-90.
For drivers who find themselves on the road in wintry weather, preparation is key, says AAA’s Hunter. “If you are in a situation where you’re on the road, anything you can do ahead of time to prepare [will help],” she says. She advises drivers keep plenty of windshield wiper fluid and an emergency road kit in their vehicle.
“Slow down, take your time, and leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you,” she advises. “If you’re in winter conditions, it’s better to steer around an object than to brake.”
Airlines have cancelled more than 3,775 flights across the Northeast as a result of the storm, according to FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker, with effects of those cancellations likely to ripple across the country.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it will work around the clock to keep airports operating smoothly. It’s “winter weather arsenal” includes more than 200 pieces of snow and ice equipment at airports, including “melters that can liquefy up to 500 tons of snow an hour and plows that can clear snow at 40 mph, more than 2,000 tons of salt and more than 1,500 tons of sand for airport roads and parking lots” and “approximately 300,000 gallons of liquid anti-icer chemicals at the airports, which prevent snow and ice from bonding to runways and taxiways.”
Winter weather arsenal notwithstanding, domestic carriers in New York-area airports, including Newark Liberty International, JFK International, and La Guardia, have planned to cease operations between 2 PM and 5 PM Friday, reports FlightAware, with service resuming Saturday afternoon. In New England, domestic carriers in many airports including Boston’s Logan International will cease operations between noon and 4 p.m. Friday, with service also resuming Saturday afternoon.
Airlines are encouraging passengers traveling to or from affected airports to check the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport. Most airlines have waived or relaxed their change-fee policies, allowing passengers booked on flights to and from affected cities Feb. 8 and 9 to rebook flights at no fee.
Weather Underground has compiled details on flight cancellations and airline policies on its website.
Heavy snow may disrupt mass transit in Boston, New York, and New Jersey, with Boston’s MBTA announcing service suspensions starting Friday afternoon.
Boston’s MBTA service, including subway, commuter rail, bus, and boat, will be suspended starting at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
New York’s MTA has not yet suspended service, but warns that some subway, bus, and rail service may be suspended if weather conditions worsen. Riders can check its Winter Weather Travel Guide for updates.
In New Jersey, NJ Transit is cross-honoring tickets Friday and Saturday, enabling customers to use transit passes on any mode of travel, including rail, light rail, and bus at no extra cost. NJ Transit is posting additional cancellations on its website.
Amtrak has announced it is reducing service on its Acela Express and Northeast Regional routes between New York and Boston starting Friday. Southbound service out of Boston’s South Station and Northbound service out of New York’s Penn Station will be suspended beginning Friday afternoon.