More than 6,000 flights cancelled as US east coast blanketed in snow

A man jogs through Central Park in the snow in New York. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPA

The northeastern United States was walloped by a fierce winter storm on Saturday that threatened to drop more than 60cm of snow, prompting governors in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts to declare states of emergency.

The storm blanketed a large swathe of New England with heavy snowfall. With the storm ongoing, some coastal areas of New Jersey already recorded 38cm of accumulation while Long Island, New York braced for another 30cm of snow.

“It’s high winds, heavy snow, blizzard conditions – all the elements of a classic nor’easter,” New York governor Kathy Hochul said at a news briefing, warning of freezing temperatures overnight. “This could be life-threatening.”

Several states along the northeast coast declared emergencies in response to the storm, which formed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Carolinas and was forecast to continue depositing snow through Saturday evening as it moved north.

“It’s really these coastal areas that are going to be most impacted,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard, adding that powerful winds could cause minor to moderate flooding in communities close to the shore.

Predicting up to two feet of snow in his state, Rhode Island governor Dan McKee issued a statewide travel ban for all passenger cars and joined surrounding states in banning tractor-trailers from the roads.

The storm prompted airlines to cancel nearly 6,000 flights through the weekend, Amtrak to halt its passenger rail service across much of the region, and the main commuter line for Long Island to suspend its operations for at least one full day.

So far power outages were limited in most of the impacted states with the exception of Massachusetts, where 114,000 out of 2.6 million customers were without electricity, according to

Speaking with reporters at around noon (5pm Irish time) on Saturday, Ms Hochul said the storm had not progressed as quickly as forecast, pushing back the state’s timetable for cleaning up.

“This storm lingered,” Ms Hochul said.

The weather may have contributed to the death of an elderly woman who was found early on Saturday morning in a hotel parking lot in Uniondale with her car window open, according to an officer at the Nassau County Police Department in Long Island.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the Boston metropolitan area and its nearly 4.9 million residents, predicting “whiteout conditions” and damaging winds.

Forecasters said more than two feet of snow could fall in some areas with wind gusts of 110km/hour. Southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the island of Martha’s Vineyard, were expected to get the highest snow totals.

“This storm is looking like it could be one for the record books,” Boston mayor Michelle Wu said in a CBS TV interview on Saturday. “We are not only expecting a whole lot of snow, but it is going to come down really quick in the most intense hours.” – Reuters