Winter Storm Stella hammers US Northeast with snow and sleet, but New York City dodges worst

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 8:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 11:14pm

Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools.

Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain.

Dire forecasts forced the postponement of the first meeting between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington until Friday, but in the end snowfall in the US capital was light.

Cathay Pacific cancels flights to New York ahead of Winter Storm Stella

The National Weather Service (NWS) revised down New York City’s expected accumulation to 10 to 21cm but 33cm was recorded in parts of New Jersey, upstate New York and Connecticut.

The trajectory of the storm shifted west and north, meaning up to 60cm of snow was still expected to fall in parts of New England and upstate New York with strong winds causing whiteout conditions.

“The storm is not delivering as much snow as forecasted at all and that is very good for the people of New York City, but the conditions are still very dangerous out there,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.

He urged people to stay indoors as much as possible, warning that snow, sleet and freezing rain would continue throughout the afternoon combined with wind gusts as high as 80km/h.

Temperatures would dip below freezing overnight, making roads and sidewalks dangerous and a city-wide state of emergency would remain in place until midnight Tuesday, he said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York had been worst hit in the central part of the state where 75cm of snow was predicted and where some of the more than 5,000 ploughs mobilised would be moving to help respond.

The NWS issued a coastal flood advisory for areas around New York, but while the subway and bus services were operating, much of the city remained quiet with schools, shops and businesses largely closed as workers shovelled snow.

New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and Newark Liberty International Airport were largely shut, with the majority of flights cancelled, and trains heading north also suspended.

“We’re stuck. We’re completely at sea,” said Andy McKinney, 71, on holiday from Arizona with his son after his train from New York to Boston was cancelled. “It’s not the end of the world but it is inconvenient.”

The United Nations headquarters closed for the day, as did the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the busiest tourist attractions in the city, and the courts. De Blasio announced that schools would re-open Wednesday.

Early trade on the New York financial markets was low in volume, though at least partly due to Wednesday’s decision from the Federal Reserve on whether to raise interest rates.

More than 8,200 flights were canceled Monday through Wednesday, with airports in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia hit hardest, according to the tracking service FlightAware.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted a picture of the snow saying “A great day to binge watch ‘The Americans’” in reference to the thriller TV series about Russian spies embedded in US suburbia.

Trump’s administration is under fire in Washington over allegations that Russia interfered in last year’s US election.

“Mother Nature is an unpredictable lady sometimes,” Cuomo told reporters after meteorologists conceded it was no longer going to be the worst storm of the season on the US East Coast in what has been an unusually mild winter.

In 2016, a record 69cm of snow fell in Central Park in 24 hours in a storm that paralysed parts of the northeast and left 18 people dead.