Fierce Winter Storm Hits Tri-State Area

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Snow is blanketing the Tri-State area Thursday as part of a winter storm that is bringing heavy snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures to most of the Northeast.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for New York City, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties as well as parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

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WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Addresses Concerns Ahead Of Winter Storm

A blizzard warning is also in effect for Long Island. Both warnings are in effect from 6 p.m. Thursday to 1 p.m. Friday. That means that falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibility are likely.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency for New York in response to the storm.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency for Suffolk County as well.

Fierce Winter Storm Hits Tri-State Area

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also declared a state of emergency through Friday. All state offices will be closed for non-essential employees.

“The impending weather conditions over the next several days will produce a variety of dangerous travel conditions throughout the state,” said Gov. Christie. “I’ve authorized state officials to take all necessary action in advance of the storm, and my Administration will continue monitoring conditions throughout the remainder of the storm. I encourage all New Jerseyans to stay off the roads if possible so that our first responders and public safety officials can safely respond to any emergency situations.”

Some parts of New York could get up to a foot of snow by the time the storm moves out, with forecasts generally calling for 6 to 12 inches. New York City, likely to see 4 to 8 inches, issued a snow alert.

Temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero.

Snow started falling in parts of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties before dawn on Thursday. The three counties could get 6 to 8 inches of snow by Friday morning.

“We’re going to see a lot of snow and a lot of wind,” said Jason Tuell, director of the eastern region of the National Weather Service. “We’re concerned about whiteout conditions possibly tonight with the blowing and drifting snow.”

Many schools around the Tri-State area were closed Thursday or planned early dismissals in anticipation of the storm.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that parents and school personnel should assume that classes will be in session Friday, but that he and school officials will make the final call on closures in the early morning hours with enough time to send out notifications and alerts.

Carmen Farina, New York City’s new school chancellor, said all PSAL, school field trips and after school activities are cancelled for Friday.

Storm Closes Major Roadways; Causes Mass Transit Changes

Express subway service ended at 5:45 p.m. Thursday. All lines will run local until further notice, the MTA said.

NJ TRANSIT said it is cross-honoring all tickets on Thursday and Friday.

Metro-North Railroad reduced its evening service after 8 p.m. Thursday, providing hourly service on all three lines.  It will run on a Saturday schedule on Friday. Click here for more info.

Long Island Rail Road said service will run on a weekend schedule on Friday. Station waiting rooms will remain open around-the-clock through Monday afternoon to accommodate customers waiting for trains during cold and inclement weather.

“I can’t believe there’s not many people now on the train,” commuter Edison Castro told CBS 2’s Don Champion just after getting off a LIRR train on Thursday night. “I guess they left early from work. We stayed a little later.”

Gov. Cuomo announced major road closures across the state Thursday afternoon in advance of the heaviest part of the storm.

I-84 closed to commercial traffic at 5 p.m. I-87 south of Albany will close to traffic at midnight.

On Long Island, where blizzard-like conditions are likely, the Long Island Expressway will close to traffic at the border of Nassau County and Queens at midnight. The governor said state officials hope to reopen the LIE by 5 a.m. Wednesday, so long as conditions allow it.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Cuomo is hoping to avoid a scene like the one last February, when hundreds of motorists were stranded in cars — some overnight — after the LIE was buried under several feet of snow.

“We want to cut down the volume of people who would try to get on the road,” Cuomo told reporters in a conference call. “These roads will be effectively closed. Cars are banned. If a car is on the road, it will be in violation of the law.”

Anyone who is caught on the LIE while it is closed could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to $1,500 in fines and six months in jail.

Fewer and fewer cars were seen on the LIE as driving conditions progressively diminished Thursday night, Sanchez reported.

Most drivers who were on the highway took their time, some braving the roads for one last trip to the gas station to stock up on fuel for their generators.

“After Sandy, you take no chances anymore,” said David Sukoff, of West Hills. “And so yeah, got out early, got some gasoline and get back before it gets too bad.”

Plow driver Larry Vittore will be out on the roads when they’re at their worst overnight. He said even his industrial truck isn’t immune to winter’s wrath.

“You’ve got to be smart,” he said. “You can’t go 50, 60 miles an hour in a snowstorm. You’re gonna get hurt.”

The Northern State and Southern State parkways will remain open. Officials say any decision to close other major roadways will be made if they become impassible.

Long Island County Executives Sound Off On Potential Road Closures

Just last month, officials shut down the LIE for several hours to spread salt when a small amount of snow fell.

“We have about 150 vehicles out on the road,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told 1010 WINS. “What makes this storm very difficult is not the number of inches, it’s these blizzard-like conditions.”

“To a great extent we’re just doing some prep work, making sure we’ve got all our vehicles good to go, not getting our guys out there too early because it’s going to be a long night and we want to make sure they’re as well rested as possible,” he added.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said workers have been pre-treating the roadways since early Thursday morning, but he advises Long Islanders to get home early from work and stay off the roads when the blizzard hits.

Mangano Says Nassau County Is Getting Ready For The Storm

“If it continues to track this way this is a time to either stay home or get home from the office earlier and stay ahead of the storm, or take mass transit,” Mangano told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “This is a time to not be on the roadways unless you absolutely have to be.”

Mangano activated the county’s non-emergency hotline at noon Thursday. Residents with non-life threatening emergencies should dial 1-888-684-4274 for assistance through the duration of the storm. Those with life-threatening emergencies should call 911.

“This is a situation where we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Mangano said.

The sprawling Town of Brookhaven, which has 3,300 miles of roadways — many of which were buried in last year’s blizzard — has a new computerized command center, live traffic cameras, GPS tracking of plows and a new highway superintendent ready to do battle.

“We started repairing and maintaining our snow equipment right after Labor Day this year,” Daniel Losquardo, Brookhaven’s highway superintendent, told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Amtrak said it will operate on a modified snow schedule Friday in order to minimize impact on its customers.

Rockland’s new county executive started prepping for the storm immediately after being sworn in New Year’s Day.

Rockland's New County Executive Jumps Right Into Storm Preps

“After the inaugural ceremony, myself and the chief of staff sat down with the fire and emergency services people,” County Executive Ed Day said.

He is also urging residents to stay off the roads. “If there’s an opportunity for them to get home prior to the bulk of this storm hitting it’s in their best interest to do so,” Day said.

By 10 p.m. snow had started to coat roads in Yonkers where drivers told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider that plows weren’t keeping up.

“The car was slipping and sliding. They’re not even doing a good job of cleaning the streets,” Manuel Tejada said.

Tejada’s BMW became stuck on the sidewalk off of Yonkers Ave after it slid off of the road. The damage was minimal but Tejada said that it was indicative of conditions on the road.

Tejada’s sentiment was echoed by other drivers who said that plows did not seem to be making much of a dent.

“It’s slippery out there and people, they should slow down a little bit but they think they’re in a race track,” Mike Sepa said.

“The roads aren’t too good. The conditions are falling apart quickly,” Dan Direnzo said, “It’s not a good time to be out.”

‘A Serious Storm Situation’

During a news conference Thursday evening, Mayor de Blasio said he was “impressed and proud” of the coordination efforts by the city’s agencies and commissioners in dealing with the snowstorm.

De Blasio urged New York City residents to stay indoors and off roadways Thursday and Friday so that the city’s Department of Sanitation can plow and salt streets.

Sanitation crews spent the morning loading up on salt and sand and then sent trucks out onto the streets to pre-treat the roads in all five boroughs.  There are 450 salt spreaders deployed to city streets, according to de Blasio.

Sanitation workers are now on 12-hour shifts, with 2,300 workers assigned to each shift, de Blasio said.

After more than two inches of snow falls, the mayor said 1,700 snowplow trucks will be deployed to clear roadways.

All city snowplow trucks are GPS equipped, allowing New Yorkers to follow their progress via the Plow NYC feature on NYC.gov.

Alternate side parking regulations will be suspended citywide Friday to facilitate snow removal. Payment at parking meters will remain in effect throughout the city.

Drivers Ignore Gov. Cuomo's Warning

“It’s going to be cold, it could be icy. We want people to take extra care, take it slow getting home. If you have the option of mass transit, please use that option,” said de Blasio after a stop at the Department of Sanitation command center. “Please stay home tonight. If you have any option to, please stay home tonight and stay off the roads so the people who are here to keep them clear can do their work.”

Mayor De Blasio Says City Is Ready For Snow

This will be the first snowstorm with de Blasio at the helm, but veterans will be running operations on the ground.

Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty is staying on in a transitional role over the next few months as are the commissioners of the FDNY and Office of Emergency Management.

Sanitation crews can clear six inches of snow from primary and secondary roads pretty quickly, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported. It’s the so-called “tertiary streets” that could be messy for a day or so following the storm.

Doherty told CBS 2’s Lou Young that despite snowplows working for several hours now, the wind is proving to be a difficult factor in keeping the snow off roads.  “A lot of people expect to see blacktop in New York City all the time. It’s not going to happen tonight.”

And it’s not only the wind, but the cold temperatures overnight render salt useless for melting snow, Young reported.

Commuters Taking Precautions In Connecticut

The MTA has ice-busting machines fueled up with plans to deploy them to all 468 subway stations and along all 220 miles of outdoor track and platforms are already being salted.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says extra personnel will keep bridges, tunnels, airports and trains running.

NJ Officials Gear Up For Storm

The city Department of Buildings says all construction sites and buildings should be secured due to a forecast of high winds and snow.  It says it will be performing random spot-checks at construction sites around the city.

All senior centers will be closed Friday and city meal programs have delivered enough food to the elderly in need to last through Monday, de Blasio said.

The mayor urged residents to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.  He also reminded residents to call 311 for any non-life threatening problems.

As CBS 2’s Sonia Moghe reported, the 4,000 pounds of salt at a Yonkers salt station has been steadily diminishing as trucks stopped in to fill up all day Thursday.

Crews treated roads before the temperatures dropped and snow came in. They’ll continue to be out there removing the snow once the storm settles in.

The city of Yonkers has urged people to stay off the roads so road crews can do their job. Residents will be allowed to park in school parking lots to keep local streets clear for the plows.

Towns across New Jersey spent Thursday, getting salt and plow trucks ready. In North Bergen most of the roads had already been pretreated.

“This is the second hilliest town in the country,” North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco said, “You talk about San Francisco, we are number two.”

The state has 3,200 trucks on standby.

‘It’s Showtime’

Power companies are also getting ready for the storm.

PSEG says it’s ready to tackle expected outages and downed power lines. It’s the company’s first test since taking over LIPA operations on Wednesday.

PSEG Is Ready For First Big Snow Test On Long Island

The utility said it has 2,200 employees on call who will handle service restoration and tree cleanup if needed. Some are even manning call center operations.

“We’re fully staffed, fully ready to go with all the equipment here on the island,” PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said.

“It’s showtime. We’re ready to go,” David Daly, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Long Island, told 1010 WINS. “We’re confident that we understand what’s coming, and we’ve got a storm process in place that will deal with it very effectively.”

The utility’s fleet of vehicles are fueled, additional supplies and contractors are in place and all available staff are ready, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.

On Long Island’s east end, it’s the wind and the drifting of snow that is of great concern for those on the front lines of storm clean-up.

“The snow, I’m not worried about. It’s the drifting later tonight when we get 30 to 40 mile an hour winds,” Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson told Xirinachs. “The wind blows, we plow it one minute, you come back a half hour later it’s like you never did it.”

Long Island's East End Bracing For High Winds

He urged the public to heed warnings and stay off the roads as much as possible.

“It hampers us when we have to pull cars off the road, out of the way,” said Woodson.

In Greenwich, Conn., officials said the tide schedule will further complicate the snow, high winds and freezing temperatures.

Greenwich Official Warns Of Possible Coastal Flooding As Storm Hits

“We are also synced with this event a very high astronomical tide,” Greenwich Emergency Management chief Dan Warzoha said. “This happens to be one of the highest tides that we will experience due to moon cycles during the year of 2014 and, of course our luck being what it is, it comes right at the peak of the storm.”

Warzoha alerted shoreline residents to be especially tuned in once the storm hits. He has urged all Greenwich residents to stay off the roads when the storm hits Thursday evening.

Residents Get Ready

In Yonkers, Joseph Grayson was filling up a gas can Thursday morning to make sure his snowblower will be ready when the storm moves in.

New Yorkers Gear Up For The Snow

“It will last me probably about three storms, once it’s filled up,” he said. “It doesn’t take much.”

Other Yonkers residents have been stocking up on shovels, ice melt and groceries before conditions deteriorate.

“We feeling pretty good but we’re hoping for another delivery tomorrow morning,” said Greg Speight of Grassy Sprain Paint and Hardware.

In New Jersey, many were hitting the REI store in Bergen County where hats, gloves and foot and hand warmers were flying off the shelves.

“We don’t have any waterproof gloves and any snow pants,” said Jackie Edwards from Glen Rock. “Usually get away with it, but this winter has been awful.”

Shoppers were also stocking up on shovels and ice melt at the Home Depot in Secaucus on Thursday, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

Secaucus Residents Stock Up On Ice Melt, Shovels

“We already went shopping, groceries and everything. Now my next step is to fill both cars with gas,” one man buying calcium chloride told Diamond.

Customers at Home Depot in Secaucus, NJ (Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Customers at Home Depot in Secaucus, NJ (Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

That type of ice melt works better in the colder temperatures than salt, said the store’s manager.

“We’ve been pretty busy today. This is about the third time we’ve reloaded already,” store manager Tony Mesonatti said.

The Home Depot in Clifton, New Jersey ran out of shovels so quickly it had to order more and the employees assembled them instead, CBS 2’s Carlos Carrasco reported.

“They were in such a demand we told the vendor ship them to us, we’ll do what we got to do for the customers and that’s what we’re doing, we’re assembling them,” Home Depot worker Greg Garciano said.

As WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported, workers were busily repairing and selling snow removal equipment at Brandman’s Equipment in Norwalk, Conn. on Thursday.

Brandman's Equipment repair shop in Norwak, Conn., Jan. 2, 2014. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

Brandman’s Equipment repair shop in Norwak, Conn., Jan. 2, 2014. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

“People get frantic. They want their snow throwers, they want their chain saws, they want their generators,” Ross Brandman told Murnane.

Norwalk Snow Removal Equipment Facility Faces Busy Days

Mechanic Mike Landesberg said it’s a great feeling to be able to help people at crunch time.

“You’re not a big hero…but we’ll take it for one day,” he told Murnane.

On Long Island, Rockville Centre residents were stocking up on supplies at a King Kullen supermarket Sunday.

“A must-have — I’ve got to have some bread,” Jackie Silkiss told Champion. “I have to have some coffee, a couple of snacks.”

The store ran out of bread, juice and water.

Darcy Gray and her friends said they plan on riding out the storm with a movie party.

“We’ve got a lot of ice cream. It’s cold like the snow, I guess,” she said. “I don’t know, what else did we get? Food. A lot of food.”

Drivers In Queens Cautious Ahead Of Snowstorm

In Queens, residents heading out to stock up on necessities were cautious on the roads, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.

“That’s why I’m taking precautions.  Just driving slow, taking our time,” one resident told Baumgarten.

In Bogota, N.J. students were dismissed from school early because of the impending storm, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.

“We didn’t get to do a lot today because the classes were shorter. Just seems pretty useless to me,” Emily Inserra said.

School officials were waiting to decide whether to cancel classes and planned to being Friday with a delayed opening.

“I don’t want to call a closure until i see some flakes on the ground but with the delayed opening it gives us some time to assess the situation,” Superintendent Letizia Pantoliano said.

Thursday’s early closure also meant that parents would have more time to stock up on supplies ahead of the storm.

Cancellations Mount At Area Airports

The flight cancellations began well before the snow fell.

“Among the three airports, we’re talking about a round number of 500 cancellations,” said Thomas Bosco, Interim Director of Aviation for the Port Authority. “We have an ample supply of cots, pillows and blankets and other amenities to try to minimize the inconvenience should you decide to be an overnight guest at one of our airport facilities.”

Man looks at cancellation board at LaGuardia Airport, Jan. 2, 2014. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Man looks at cancellation board at LaGuardia Airport, Jan. 2, 2014. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

The area airports are expecting over 10 inches of snow and high winds.

“We have our work cut out for us,” said Bosco.

Flights Cancelled Across Region Ahead Of Storm

The airports will remain open during the snow, Diamond reported.

As of 5 p.m., arrival delays were averaging five hours, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

The Port Authority crews will be going into overdrive when it comes to snow removal at LaGuardia, Newark and JFK airports, Schneider reported.

“We have a fleet of specialized snow removal vehicles and equipment,” he said.

With a small number of flights coming into area airports Thursday, cancellations are expected through Friday, Diamond reported.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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