NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A blizzard warning was issued for New York City from 6:00 a. m. on Sunday through 6:00 p.m. on Monday, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds leading to white-out conditions that will reduce visibility to near zero at times. As much as 18 inches could fall on the New Jersey shore. Heavy snow was also predicted from Philadelphia through Boston and into northern New England.
A winter storm that brought a rare white Christmas to parts of the South barreled up the East Coast on Saturday night, with forecasters predicting 6 to 10 inches of snow Sunday for Washington and blizzard conditions for New York City and the New Jersey shore.
Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency as crews tried to clear snowy and icy highways. Authorities in Mid-Atlantic states spent Christmas Day preparing for up to a foot of snowfall. And airlines began canceling flights in the Northeast corridor before the intensifying storm descended on the region.
The storm was already scrambling the plans of holiday travelers along the Eastern Seaboard. Motorists will be facing treacherous road conditions in many states Sunday with blowing snow and low visibility, and the snow is likely to strand many air travelers.
Continental Airlines canceled 250 departures from Newark Liberty International Airport. United Airlines announced late Saturday that it had canceled 61 Sunday departures from Newark, Philadelphia, LaGuardia, JFK, Boston, Bradley International in Connecticut, Providence, Albany International and Manchester Boston Regional Airport.
“Our concern is tomorrow it’s going to get significantly colder,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told The Weather Channel. “Winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour will cause blowing snow and that’s going to cause the worst of it … and we’re urging extreme caution in travel. Try to get home early and if you don’t have to travel don’t go.”
As of late Saturday evening, the National Weather Service had issued winter weather warnings from north Georgia to southern New England. Winter weather watches were in effect for eastern Tennessee and Kentucky up to West Virginia.
“An area of low pressure in the deep South is working its way up the coast,” CBS 2HD meteorologist Elise Finch reports.”
Here’s what you can expect. Starting around 3 a.m. Sunday, the snow will begin creeping into the Tri-State Area. By around 8 a.m., everyone will see at least some flurries, with some areas seeing heavier snow showers. By noon, the snow will already be starting to stick, with the accumulations becoming apparent by around 5 p.m.
The heaviest snowfall is expected by around 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., with some areas possibly getting up to 17 inches. The closer you are to the coast, the heavier the snowfall you’ll see.
Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency on Saturday as airlines assessed whether to cancel flights for post-Christmas travelers.
United Airlines said weather conditions would likely force delays and cancellations at United’s hub at Washington Dulles International Airport and at other northeastern airports between Saturday and Monday.
“At this point, the forecast calls for less snow at Dulles” than in the New York area, United spokesman Michael Trevino said in an e-mail. “As a result, the team is still working through the plan for that station and whether any pro-active cancellations will be necessary.”
Both carriers are waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urged passengers to make changes through their web sites.
It’s the first Christmas snow for the Carolinas since 1989, when a foot fell along the coast. For Columbia, it’s the first significant Christmas snow since weather records were first kept in 1887.
Authorities in the Mid-Atlantic states were preparing for the storm on Christmas Day.
“We are ready,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told The Weather Channel on Saturday night. He said officials have been tracking the storm and the state has adequate reserves of sand and salt.
“Our concern is tomorrow it’s going to get significantly colder,” he said. “Winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour will cause blowing snow and that’s going to cause the worst of it … and we’re urging extreme caution in travel. Try to get home early and if you don’t have to travel don’t go.”
D.C. transportation department spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said a few crews would be pre-treating roads Saturday night if necessary. About 200 pieces of equipment will be deployed Sunday in anticipation of snow.
Washington’s Metro system had placed crews on standby to remove snow from rail station entrances and platforms if necessary.
Metro says that it will operate on close to a normal rail schedule if less than 6 inches of snow falls. But if snow reaches a depth of eight inches, Metro may suspend rail service above ground.
Farther up the Eastern Seaboard, Delaware was bracing for a foot of snow.
The weather service says snow is likely to begin in the state Sunday morning and end by dawn Monday. Accumulations of between eight and twelve inches were forecast for parts of the state, and a storm warning was in effect from 7 a.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday.
Delaware Emergency Management spokeswoman Rosanne Pack said residents should consider traveling Saturday evening or very early Sunday morning in advance of the snow.
Residents in eastern Pennsylvania were bracing for 8 to 12 inches of snow for Philadelphia and its suburbs during the winter warning period, which begins at 7 a.m. Sunday and runs through 1 p.m. Monday.
Forecasters also were predicting winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts over 40 mph. They were urging people not to travel if possible because of the expected snow and reduced visibility caused by blowing and drifting snow – echoing a warning issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation earlier in the week.
“If a winter storm does strike, our advice is to avoid traveling unless absolutely necessary – for your own safety,” PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler said in a statement. “If you must travel, use common sense, pack an emergency kit, have realistic expectations of road conditions and remember that if winter precipitation is falling, roads will not be completely free of ice and snow.”
The snow storm blanketed sections of the Midwest and hampered motorists there on Christmas Eve, before dipping south late Friday.
Delta Air Lines spokesman Kent Landers said 500 weather-related flight cancellations were planned for Saturday nationwide. That included 300 of the 800 scheduled departures from the Atlanta hub.
Only a few hundred people milled about the cavernous terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, many of them recent arrivals from international flights. Passengers were notified Friday when flights were pre-emptively canceled, so most didn’t bother to show up. Many chairs were empty, restaurants too.
Some couldn’t help but chuckle that the flights were nixed long before the first raindrop or snowflake had fallen. Snow didn’t begin falling in Atlanta until Saturday afternoon.
“They canceled hundreds of flights and there hasn’t even been a drop of rain,” said Stephanie Palmer, who was killing time with her friend Ibrahima Soumano as he awaited a flight to Mali. “This doesn’t make sense.”
Landers said Delta would decide on possible additional Sunday cancellations as the time approaches. Landers said anyone with travel plans through Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington and Newark, N.J., on Sunday or Monday can change their flight without a penalty as long as they travel by Dec. 29.
AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said Saturday that the carrier had canceled seven Saturday flights and that afternoon flights from Atlanta would be delayed because of required de-icing of planes. AirTran too offered to waive ticket-change fees for some flights scheduled for this weekend and Monday in the South and Mid-Atlantic.
The Air Transport Association was expecting 44.3 million people on U.S. flights between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5 – up 3 percent over the same period a year ago but still below pre-recession travel volume. The average ticket price was $421, up by 5 percent.
The AAA predicted overall holiday travel to rise about 3 percent this year, with more than 92 million people planning to go more than 50 miles by Jan. 2. More than 90 percent said they would be driving.
National Weather Service Alerts Nearby:
Blizzard Warning in NJ – Eastern Passaic , Hudson , Western Passaic
Winter Storm Warning in NJ – Coastal Ocean , Eastern Monmouth , Hunterdon , Mercer , Middlesex , Morris , Northwestern Burlington , Ocean , Somerset , Southeastern Burlington , Sussex , Warren , Western Monmouth
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BLIZZARD WARNING:
…BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM SUNDAY TO 6 PM EST MONDAY…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN UPTON HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD WARNING…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM SUNDAY TO 6 PM EST MONDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* LOCATIONS…NORTHEAST NEW JERSEY…NEW YORK CITY AND ITS IMMEDIATE SUBURBS…LONG ISLAND…AND COASTAL AND INTERIOR SOUTHEAST CONNECTICUT.
* HAZARDS…HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS…WITH CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF SNOW AND NEAR ZERO VISIBILITY AT TIMES.
* ACCUMULATIONS…11 TO 16 INCHES…WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE IN HEAVIER SNOW BANDS WHOSE EXACT LOCATION IS STILL TOO EARLY TO DETERMINE. SNOW MAY MIX WITH OR CHANGE TO RAIN AND SLEET AT THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM LATE SUNDAY NIGHT ACROSS EASTERN LONG ISLAND…AND POSSIBLY ACROSS COASTAL SOUTHEAST CONNECTICUT…WHICH COULD HOLD DOWN AMOUNTS THERE…BUT ONLY AFTER SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATIONS HAVE ALREADY TAKEN PLACE.
* IMPACTS…EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS DEVELOPING DUE TO SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…AND STRONG WINDS CAUSING CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF SNOW. VISIBILITIES WILL BE NEAR ZERO AT TIMES…WITH WHITEOUT CONDITIONS EXPECTED. STRONG WINDS MAY ALSO DOWN SOME POWER LINES…TREE LIMBS…AND CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.
* TIMING…LIGHT SNOW WILL LIKELY BEGIN DURING SUNDAY MORNING…THEN BECOME HEAVY AT TIMES FROM LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON INTO MUCH OF SUNDAY NIGHT. LIGHT SNOWS WILL LIKELY LINGER INTO MONDAY MORNING AND POSSIBLY INTO MONDAY AFTERNOON.
* WINDS….DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM SUNDAY NIGHT…NORTH WINDS WILL INCREASE TO 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS 40 TO 55 MPH…HIGHEST ACROSS CENTRAL AND EASTERN LONG ISLAND.
A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS…MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL…HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED…STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.