A powerful, fast-moving storm swept through the northeastern U.S. early Thursday, making for a slippery morning commute and leaving some residents bracing for blizzard conditions and more than a foot of snow.
Commuters in the densely populated region awoke to windblown snow – less than 24 hours after enjoying spring-like temperatures – and faced slick highways. Forecasters said Thursday’s weather had the potential to be the most powerful storm that some areas have seen in a mostly snow-free winter.
The National Weather Service predicted that the Boston area and eastern Maine could get 12 to 18 inches of snow, and a blizzard warning has been issued for all of Long Island until 6 p.m., New York City could see 8 to 12 inches and the Philadelphia area 4 to 8 inches. Near whiteout conditions are possible, with the snow expected to fall at a clip of 2 to 4 inches per hour at its peak.
In Lower Manhattan, intrepid, bundled-up commuters carefully navigated snow-covered sidewalks. The blowing snow stung any exposed skin.
Sam Lopresti, of Jersey City, New Jersey, warm and dry in his workplace, said he’d been pleasantly surprised that his early-morning train trip to Manhattan had gone smoothly.
“I fully expected the MTA and PATH to curl into a ball and say, ‘Don’t hurt me!”’ joked Lopresti, an actor and barista.
Lopresti said weather forecasts had escalated from “a run of the mill snowstorm to an apocalyptic deal.”
Officials also are warning of high winds, coastal flooding and power outages.
The storm started as rain early Thursday in eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey before changing over to snow.
State offices were closed in New Jersey, and government offices in the Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties outside Philadelphia were shuttered Thursday.
A number of school systems canceled Thursday classes including New York City, Philadelphia and Boston. Airlines scrapped thousands of flights by late Wednesday as a precaution.
The storm comes a day after much of the Northeast enjoyed a brief glimpse of spring, with temperatures hitting 60 degrees in some places.
Thursday’s storm is expected to last 6 to 10 hours, said Carl Erickson, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania.
The snow is expected to taper off by the early afternoon in the Philadelphia and New York City areas, but New Englanders should brace for snowfall through the evening commute.