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Nor'easter Snarls Travel, but Major Cities Spared Worst

A nor'easter clobbering the Washington-to-Boston corridor Tuesday with a messy mix of snow and sleet — even as major cities were spared the worst.
Image: People struggle to walk in the blowing snow during a winter storm in Boston
People struggle to walk in the blowing snow during a winter storm Tuesday in Boston.Michael Dwyer / AP

A nor'easter clobbering the Washington-to-Boston corridor Tuesday with brutal winds, and a messy mix of snow and sleet continued to snarl travel — even as major cities were spared the worst.

States of emergency were declared in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut, where as much as 2 feet of snow had been predicted for inland regions. But totals along the coasts were downgraded after the nor'easter shifted farther west, allowing milder Atlantic air in and shifting the snow to sleet.

The Latest on the Storm

  • Snowfall rates were 1 to 4 inches per hour across the Interstate 95 corridor. Through Tuesday, parts of New York and Boston could see 6 to 10 inches, Philadelphia 2 to 4 inches, Baltimore 5 to 8 inches and Washington, D.C., about 2 inches.

  • Blizzard warnings covered parts of eight states, from eastern Pennsylvania through Maine, with winds gusting from 40 mph to 50 mph. New York City was no longer under a blizzard warning, but the state of emergency was continuing through midnight.
  • More than 6,450 arrivals and departures for Tuesday had been canceled at U.S. airports, mainly at Northeast hubs.
  • Snow and wind gusts were expected to continue through early Wednesday in the Northeast, although the worst of the storm will be over.
  • Amtrak's Northeast Regional service between New York City and Boston and its Empire Service between New York City and Albany, New York, were suspended until further notice.

Washington, which braced for up to 5 inches, saw only about 2 inches as of the morning, with minor additional snowfall expected, NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said.

"Mother Nature is an unpredictable lady sometimes. She was unpredictable again today," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning. "The storm is not as bad as anticipated (in New York City]. The problem is it's worse than anticipated in other parts of the state."

Despite snow total changes, the blizzard-like conditions and cold temperatures could potentially be life-threatening, said Kait Parker, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel: "We're not kidding with this. This is not some sort of joke. This is a major storm."

Airports in the New York City area were virtual ghost towns, with more than 1,200 arrivals and departures canceled. By 12:30 p.m. ET, more than 6,450 takeoffs and landings had been canned, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.

A "wall of snow" was forecast to hit Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut on Tuesday morning at a rate of up to 4 inches an hour, the National Weather Service warned, with the added risk of thunder snow.

In New York City, heavy snow and sleet were expected to end around noon, although further snowfall was set to continue through 5 p.m. The state suspended above-ground subway service, and buses were running intermittently.

Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with chilly New Yorkers to keep off the roads so sanitation crews and first responders could do their jobs.

About 31 million Americans were waking up to blizzard warnings across the Northeast, Karins said, while an additional 31 million were under winter storms warnings and a further 9 million were under winter weather advisories.

The winds knocked out power to about 1,500 people on Long Island, New York. Meanwhile, up to 2 feet of snow was still expected from parts of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Albany, New York, through Central New England, forecasters said.

Cuomo activated 2,000 National Guard personnel and told non-essential state employees to take the day off. He said government, schools and airports were basically shut down for the day.

"There's no real reason to be on the roads," he added Tuesday morning on MSNBC. "They are dangerous."

In Connecticut, a statewide travel ban began at 5 a.m. ET, while New York, Boston and Philadelphia all said schools would be closed.

In Washington, D.C., federal workers were allowed to work from home or arrive up to three hours later than normal, according to an overnight update from the Office of Personnel Management.

The combination of high winds and rapid snow was forecast to reduce visibility to next to nothing in many areas.

"The storm is going to start, and when it starts, it's going to snow hard, and it's going to snow quickly," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. "It's going to create very treacherous circumstances and conditions."

That's unwelcome news for many in the region, who were enjoying springlike temperatures a few days ago and were hoping the storms were done for the season.

"This will be our 12th plowing storm this year. We budget for eight," Steve Earley, public services director in Portland, Maine, told New England Cable News. "It's been a busy winter, for sure."

Image: Workmen clear a sidewalk during a winter storm in Philadelphia
Workmen clear a sidewalk during a winter storm in Philadelphia on March 14, 2017.Matt Rourke / AP