Massive snowstorm hits the East Coast

By Judson Jones, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 6:59 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021
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11:29 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

New York City's LaGuardia Airport cancels all commercial flights

From CNN'a LaCrisha McAllister

Flights in and out of the New York area are severely impacted by the powerful winter storm sweeping the region. 

All commercial flight activity has been canceled today at LaGuardia Airport in light of the nor'easter, the airport tweeted. 

So far at John F. Kennedy airport, 83% of flights have been canceled and more cancellations are expected later today. About 75% of flights at Newark Liberty in New Jersey have been canceled. Newark has employed snow removal and de-icing operations in an attempt to keep cancellations at a minimum. 

All travelers are advised to contact their airline for updated flights status and cancellation information.

11:13 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Why are we getting bigger snowstorms in a warming climate?

From CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller

As New York City gets hammered with another blockbuster snowstorm, one that could end up in the top-five snowstorms – the inevitable question arises – how do these massive snow dumps happen as the planet is warming due to climate change?

And if it seems like we are seeing more of these blockbuster storms, especially along the East Coast, it's true. 

Once this storm drops its final flakes, it will almost certainly make six of the top-10 largest snowstorms in New York City history occurring in the past 15 years. With 150 years of records in the books, one would expect to only have about one top 10 storm in the past 15 years if things were distributed evenly. 

This is a trend that is playing out in much of the country and is an expected consequence of global warming. 

"The frequency of extreme snowstorms in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States has increased over the past century, according to NOAA, and "approximately twice as many extreme U.S. snowstorms occurred in the latter half of the 20th century than the first." 

There are several reasons for the increased snow totals, with the main ones being warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures and added moisture available in the atmosphere. 

Warmer air can hold more moisture, and warmer oceans allow for more of the moisture-rich air to enter the snowstorms. The same principle is responsible for larger rainfall totals and increased flooding in hurricanes and summertime storms. 

While individual snowstorms may have larger snow totals in a warming climate, especially along the coasts, this does not mean winters are seeing more snow overall. Most locations are expected to see less snow, on average, during winters in the future.

This trend has already been observed with shorter snow seasons and more winter precipitation falling as rain across much of the country.

Looking at the same New York City snow history, even with six of the top 10 biggest snowstorms coming in the past 15 years, the annual snowfall average has dropped from around 31 inches/year to about 25 inches/year in those 150 years. 

So, in short, climate change means less snow overall — but more comes in quick bursts.

11:03 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

New York City Covid-19 vaccinations canceled Monday and Tuesday due to the storm

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Vaccinations in New York City are canceled Monday and Tuesday in the wake of the winter storm, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“The storm is disrupting our vaccination efforts,” de Blasio said.

“Vaccinations are cancelled today, “ and will “also be cancelled tomorrow,” he said. Based on the conditions the city is facing, the mayor believes it will be difficult and “not safe” to get around.

He said appointments can be rescheduled, and New York City will be able to catch up “quickly” he said, adding “again, we have a vast amount of capacity, we don’t have enough vaccines.”

11:02 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

New York City mayor urges residents to stay inside

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advised people to “stay off the roads, stay off the streets and sidewalks” and “stay inside.”

He reminded people the city's order mandating non-essential travelers to stay off the road will be in effect until 6 a.m. ET Tuesday. “We got to take this really seriously," he said.

Schools, remote today, will continue to be remote Tuesday, de Blasio said. Schools will be back to in-person learning Wednesday. Food assistance is canceled today and tomorrow as well, and will be back on Wednesday.

Subways and buses are running with delays, and most ferries are suspended, if not canceled today.  

Deanne Criswell, commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department, said winds are picking up, adding “we are going to see blizzard-like conditions intermittently throughout the day today.”

There are minimal power and heat outages, but Con-Ed, the city's energy provider, has brought in extra crews, Criswell said.

The city is also expecting moderate coastal flooding. Criswell said the areas around Jamaica Bay, could see two to three feet, which could be the most flooding from a winter storm since Oct. 2018. 

10:55 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

All New York state vaccination sites closed due to winter storm

From CNN's Evan Simko Bednarski

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that vaccination sites are closed due to the winter storm currently bearing down on New York state and the surrounding region. 

The confirmation came in an interview with host Wayne Cabot on WCBS radio Monday morning. Cuomo said that all inoculations scheduled for Monday would be rescheduled, and allowed that appointments may be canceled on Tuesday as well depending on the severity of the storm.

Cuomo also pushed back on reporting in the New York Times that he has overruled his own health officials, describing the setting of pandemic and vaccination policies as "a collaborative effort."

10:47 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

A heavy band of snow is approaching New York City

Radar shows snow that is falling in white with darker blues representing even heavier snow that is falling.
Radar shows snow that is falling in white with darker blues representing even heavier snow that is falling. CNN Weather

The peak of the snow will fall in New York City over the next six to eight hours says CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen. 

Radar is showing strong bands of heavy snow — the deeper blue line shown on the radar image above. This is a sign that the nor'easter is intensifying, says Hennen.

"Snowfall rates could pick up to 2 to 3 inches of snow an hour," he says. There is even a chance for thundersnow — when lightning occurs in a snowstorm — in some of the strongest bands. 

Snowfall totals will continue to pile up quickly in the city, where 5 to 8 inches of snow has already fallen and storm totals could reach more than 20 inches in spots. 

10:21 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

The storm traveled about 2,500 miles before impacting New York

The storm pummeling the Northeast has had quite the journey. It has traveled coast-to-coast — about 2,500 miles — leaving a trail of snow, flooding rainsavalanches and landslides. 

After dipping down from Alaska last week, it combined with moisture in the upper atmosphere to deliver an atmospheric river to central California.

Satellite imagery shows the storm moving from coast-to-coast over the past 5 days. 
Satellite imagery shows the storm moving from coast-to-coast over the past 5 days.  CNN Weather

"There were at least 3 cities that broke daily rainfall records in California on Jan 28 and 29," CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar says. 

Over a foot of rainfall — in just three days — fell along in the Big Sur Coast. This rainfall eventually led to the collapse of a section of Highway 1 into the Pacific Ocean.

And places like Mammoth Mountain piled snow up over 100 inches. 

Over the weekend, the storm moved over the Rockies and into the plains. Once it did, it picked up energy and delivered a solid blast of snow into the Midwest. 

Chicago saw the largest snowfall for the city since 2015, with more than 10 inches piled up in the city.

By Sunday, the storm was delivering the most snow Washington, DC has seen in over two years. Enough for the National Zoo pandas to slide around in the winter wonderland. 

Flakes fell as far south as the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina and toward the Virginia coast at Norfolk.

Monday, the storm is delivering another historic punch of snow in New York and eventually Maine. 

Once the storm moves through Maine, it will have traveled over 3,000 miles across the Continental US. 

9:29 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Snow will fall on New York City for 2 days straight

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Snow began falling in New York City around 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, and it will continue for around 48 hours, until Tuesday evening.

Intense snowfall rates of 1-3” per hour are expected for New York City, as well as Long Island and Southern Connecticut later this morning through early afternoon.

During intense bands, the visibility will drop to near zero, making travel extremely difficult.

Region could see "thundersnow," which is rare, in the strongest snow bands. 


9:25 a.m. ET, February 1, 2021

This could be one of New York City's top 5 snowstorms of all time

From CNN's Brandon Miller

A person rides their bicycle in Times Square in New York City during a winter storm on Monday.
A person rides their bicycle in Times Square in New York City during a winter storm on Monday. Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

New York City is forecast to get between 18 and 24 inches of snow during this massive storm — which means it could be one of the city's top five snow storms of all time.

A total of 21 inches of snow would land this storm in New York City's top five.

The largest snowstorm on record is 27.5 inches in January 2016. Records go back to 1869.