NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city is getting ready for what officials are calling a dangerous, fast-moving storm that could dump as much as a foot of snow on the area as New Yorkers soak up spring-like temperatures before the winter weather takes over.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City schools will be closed on Thursday because of the storm.
As CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported, the five boroughs of New York City and nearly all the rest of the Tri-State Area is under a winter storm warning beginning at midnight Wednesday night and continuing through 6 p.m. Thursday. Suffolk County is under a blizzard warning for the same time frame.
Quinn warned that the blizzard warning could be extended westward, even into the city, as the night goes on.
The track as now forecast shows the storm pushing toward the Atlantic Ocean, exiting somewhere near the Delmarva Peninsula and continuing along the coastline. A storm in the Atlantic Ocean with so much available moisture – and pulling in its own cold air – is certain to make for major snowfall totals.
The first flakes are expected between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. The most severe snowfall will come between 6 a.m. and noon, and the snow will lighten after 1 p.m.
But the storm will linger to the east through 5 p.m., Quinn reported.
As of 11 p.m., Quinn’s forecast still showed 6 to 10 inches of snow for the city proper and most of the area. But some spots to the north and west, as well as Long Island, could see totals of 10 to 14 inches – and some could even see 16 to 18 inches.
But Quinn said given the revised forecast models, the anticipated totals may go up.
Forecast models vary for the area. The RPM model was retooled for higher totals late Wednesday night – placing New York City in the zone up for more than a foot of accumulation. The model calls for 12.1 inches for the city, and higher totals in Danbury, Connecticut with 12.6 inches and in Coram with 13.2 inches
The European Model calls for 9.9 inches for New York City, and higher totals in Danbury with 11.4 inches, White Plains with 11.5 inches, Coram with 11.8 inches, and Montauk with 12.2 inches.
The North American Model, which correctly predicted the record-breaking blizzard on Jan. 23, 2016, anticipates 11.3 inches in the city, and higher totals in White Plains with 11.6 inches and Danbury with 12.1 inches.
The city has advised that the city should expect as much as a foot.
But the spots where the most severe snowfall will come cannot be pinned down definitively. It is not yet known where the heavy bands of snowfall will set up – it could be over the city or anywhere in the areas. It is also not known where the low pressure system will set up, how long the snowstorm will linger, and what the hourly snowfall rates will be.
Quinn said forecasters are talking about 3 inches of snow falling per hour.
“I cannot tell you the last time I’ve seen 3 inches of snow fall in an hour here in New York City, but that’s the kind of activity they’re talking about,” Quinn said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is prepared for the worst, with 2,300 salt spreaders and plows ready to go.
Garbage and recycling pickups will be delayed as workers Thursday night were readying 1,600 plows and 689 spreaders for the storm right off the bat, the Department of Sanitation said.
The city has also put the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation on standby just in case they need the extra help.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this,” de Blasio said. “Record warm temperatures today, followed by a snowstorm in the early morning hours. We have to be ready for it.”
When the heaviest snowfall comes to the city between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday, blizzard-like conditions will create “a very treacherous morning rush hour,” said Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito.
Esposito said warned that visibility will be very poor.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the city announced that Department of Sanitation crews have spent the day pulling out equipment and preparing it for Thursday. The department issued a snow alert for 12:01 a.m. Thursday. New York’s Strongest started loading salt spreaders, attaching plows, preparing tire chains and notifying other city agencies and supplementary personnel as needed.
As it hit 60 degrees in New York City on Wednesday, the Department of Sanitation issued a snow alert for 12:01 a.m. Thursday. New York’s Strongest started loading salt spreaders, attaching plows, preparing tire chains and notifying other city agencies and supplementary personnel as needed.
Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is encouraging New Yorkers to stay off the roads.
“This will be a very dangerous storm,” Garcia said. “Luckily it’s not likely to last very long, only a few hours, but during the period of time that it’s coming down it’ll be extraordinarily difficult to drive. So I want to encourage everyone who can take mass transit to please do that.”
“Don’t be fooled by the warm weather,” Esposito said during an afternoon press conference Wednesday. “A storm is coming.”
“We want to keep New Yorkers safe,” Esposito added. “Stay off the roads, take public transportation and leave yourself extra time.”
Some new equipment is also ready to deploy to some areas such as Corona, Queens, where snow removal was a real challenge the last time around.
A record-setting blizzard socked the area on Jan. 23, 2016, and Queens residents were practically trapped on their streets long after the snowfall when city plows failed to clear the area properly.
The city said the extremely narrow streets made it almost impossible for large plows to maneuver through parts of Corona and Middle Village.
This year, the city bought smaller haulster trucks to take care of the problem.
“We’ve actually purchased and doubled our fleet of haulsters, which are these smaller spreaders, and those we have designed new routes for — across all five boroughs — but there are a lot of small streets in Queens and Staten Island as well,” Garcia said.
Corona residents said it was hard to forget how bad things got last year. They hope things have changed by now.
“They didn’t clean none of these streets — the main street, but the side street. I live on 98th place, but for days they hadn’t come there,” said Ray Hall. “Now tomorrow, let’s see what happens.”
The New York City subway system has also made some service changes in advance of the storm. B Train service, which does not run overnight, ended early on Wednesday night – with the last trains leaving between 7:12 and 7:17 p.m.
A trains will run local between 168th Street and 59th Street-Columbus Circle in both directions, and D trains will run local in both directions between Tremont Avenue and 59th Street-Columbus Circle.
Northbound D and N trains are running local between 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, and also between Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and 59th Street-Brooklyn.
New York state has issued a tandem trailer ban on several parts of the highway system beginning at midnight Wednesday night.
CHECK: MTA Updates
Thousands of flights were also canceled in advance of the storm.
CHECK: Flight Delays
Meanwhile, some New York City students were more than happy to learn that they wouldn’t have to be in school.
“Oh, they canceled school?” said high school senior Naheedah Abdul.
“It’s amazing,” said senior Farhan Zaman. “I’m going to stay at home and sleep all day, I guess.”
The Department of Education said there have been 11 school closures due to the weather over the last 10 years. Not all were snow days — some were due to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Alternate side parking will also be suspended Thursday for snow operations, the Department of Transportation announced. Payment at meters will remain in effect.
The snow will come as a shock following the balmy 60 degrees that was seen earlier Wednesday. The warm conditions drew people out to the boardwalk in South Beach, Staten Island. One person was seen running in shorts and a T-shirt there.
“It’s beautiful, it feels like the spring and tomorrow it’s going to be freezing,” Staten Island resident Lisa Mariusa told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes. “It’s crazy.”
And once the storm is over, the balmy, springlike conditions seen earlier Wednesday will be a distant memory. On Friday, single digit wind chills, strong winds, and rapid freezing of the wet snow are expected.