A fast-moving winter storm that pummeled parts of Kentucky and Virginia is expected to cause widespread disruption across the Northeast on Friday and Saturday, dumping between 4 and 12 inches of snow on the region’s major cities.
More than 60 million people are under winter weather alerts, and local officials have taken pre-emptive measures to prepare the densely-populated region, including shutting government offices and ordering school closures.
The forecast calls for as much as 12 inches of snow in Boston, with 4 to 6 inches in Washington DC, 3 to 5 inches in New York City and up to 4 inches in Philadelphia, according to CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
With snow falling at up to 2 inches an hour Friday morning, travel in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut is “very treacherous & slow,” the National Weather Service in Boston tweeted just after 8 a.m.
The heavy snowfall and poor visibility are making it difficult for road crews, the weather service said in the tweet, advising people to “delay travel until this afternoon when snow ends,” if possible.
The winter weather, coupled with disruptions arising from Covid-19, has caused huge headaches for air travelers, too. More than 2,200 flights have already been canceled on Friday, according to flightaware.com.
Boston Logan International Airport reported 7.1 inches of snow as of 7:14 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. In New York, 8.4 inches were reported at LaGuardia Airport and 5.5 inches at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In Connecticut, all executive branch state office buildings will be closed on Friday and non-essential employees are being asked to work remotely.
“This appears to be a significant winter storm that is about to impact our state, with snowfall anticipated to reach rates of more than one inch per hour causing whiteout conditions and happening right at the height of the morning rush hour,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.
He warned people not to venture onto roads if possible.
New York City has activated its winter weather plan with 330,000 tons of salt, over 700 salt spreaders and over 1,600 plow vehicles on standby, while neighboring New Jersey declared a state of emergency.
The combination of snow and wind could result in blackouts due to downed power lines, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned. He encouraged people to work remotely if possible, as the storm would likely make travel hazardous.
3,900 pieces of equipment ready for snow operations
In Massachusetts, officials are asking non-emergency state employees not to report to work Friday.
About 3,900 pieces of state and vendor equipment are available for snow and ice operations, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said, including snowplows, spreader combos, and front-end loaders, and it expects to deploy approximately 2,500 pieces of equipment for this storm.
All Boston public schools will be closed Friday “due to inclement weather,” the city said.
Schools in the area are already facing acute staffing shortages, although it’s unclear how many are Covid-related.
In Virginia, the National Guard is being mobilized to assist with emergency management as the state faces its second winter storm this week, according to Virginia’s Army and Air National Guard Major General Tim Williams.
And Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency.
The upcoming storm will be smaller but hit similar areas to the storm in Virginia earlier in the week, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist in Charge, Jeff Orrock.
“Overall we’ll see three to four inches with some isolated amounts, 4-6 inches in the higher elevations, and at the very peaks we could see 6-8 inches,” Orrock said, adding a potential of more snow with “upwards of 5-6 inches over the I-95 corridor.”
Federal government offices and public schools in Washington DC will be closed Friday.
Select Covid-19 vaccination and testing sites will be open, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said, but winter weather is impacting testing and vaccination sites in Maryland and Virginia.
The Maryland Department of Health will delay operating times at various locations Friday, and five of Virginia’s Community Vaccination Centers will be closed due to inclement weather, the state’s health department said.
Kentucky declares state of emergency
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency following heavy snowfall across the state Thursday. And the state’s National Guard has been activated at all interstate closures.
“The powerful severe weather is affecting travel on major interstates, and state and local roadways as well as causing power outages and damage to public infrastructure and private properties,” Beshear said in a statement.
He urged people to stay off the roads if possible and added that the Red Cross is monitoring the need for warming centers and search and rescue teams have already been activated for safety checks on stranded motorists.
The weather caused a multi-car pileup on the Western Kentucky Parkway on Thursday.
State Police Public Information Officer Scotty Sharp said the only injuries were minor and non-life threatening.
CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Dave Alsup, Mary Kay Mallonee, Brian Vitagliano, Elizabeth Joseph, Sahar Akbarzai, Jaide Timm-Garcia, Amy Simonson and Jessica Jordan contributed to this report