Nearly 30 million people were in the path of a historic blizzard Monday night as heavy snow and howling winds bore down on the East Coast, causing multiple states to declare emergencies and issue travel bans, airlines to preemptively cancel more than 6,000 flights, and bringing Boston and New York City to a virtual standstill.
More than two feet of snow was expected to fall across parts of the Northeast, leading the governors of seven states – Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island – to declare states of emergency as the region braced for the worst of the storm to hit overnight Monday and Tuesday morning. Of those states, only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania did not issue travel bans Monday night.
In New York City, a typically harried rush hour gave way to eerie quiet as the streets emptied in anticipation of the advancing blizzard. Stores closed and taxi services shut down as the storm intensified and a travel ban took effect.
The National Weather Service said the blizzard would affect an estimated 29 million people over a 250-mile area from New Jersey to Maine. Meteorologists expected the storm, dubbed “Juno” by The Weather Channel, to cause coastal flooding and reach wind speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a travel ban on all roads in 13 downstate counties beginning at 11 p.m. Monday, excluding emergency vehicles, and threatened people who violated the ban with a misdemeanor including fines up to $300. Cuomo said he did not yet know when roads will reopen. In New York City, all mass transit – including the MTA and Port Authority – were also suspended at 11 p.m until further notice.
“This blizzard is forecasted to be one of the worst this region has seen, and we must put safety first and take all necessary precautions,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday evening. “Commuters and drivers need to get home as quickly as possible before the storm completely cripples our transit networks and roads.”
“This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City,” New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, warning people to stay indoors. “This is not a typical storm. It’s going to pack a punch. What you’re going to see in a few hours is something that hits very hard and very fast.”
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Other states across the Northeast also rushed to put precautions in place, warning residents to stay home and calling up fleets of trucks to salt and plow the roads. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie issued a 1 p.m. early dismissal, cautioned travelers to prepare for rush hour early Monday afternoon, and said that public transit would be shut down beginning at 10 p.m. Later Monday, the governor also ordered a state-wide travel ban that began at 11 p.m., reflecting deteriorating weather conditions in the state.
“We want to get individuals home and off the roads as soon as possible,” Christie said during a press conference Monday. “This is a different kind of storm than we’ve had before, and it’s going to affect our state in different ways.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statewide travel ban that began at 9 p.m. Monday. He requested out-of-state crews to help with service, and the National Guard and Coast Guard were also prepared to help as needed.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh canceled school in the city on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the state’s capital, crews stocked plows with salt and sand for clearing snowy, icy roads. Officials warned that heavy and wet snow could trigger power outages.
“Take this very seriously,” Walsh said. “Don’t wait until the last minute because this storm is giving us a 24-hour head start to get ready for it.”
In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents to prepare their families, homes and elderly neighbors ahead of the storm. Her state, along with Massachusetts, issued travel bans starting Monday at midnight.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan also declared a state of emergency, although she stopped short of issuing a travel ban, instead urging residents to stay at home. “If you do have to travel, our weather experts are telling us that you should prepare to perhaps be stranded,” Hassan said at a press conference.
The storm’s effects were felt as far as the nation’s capital, where the House of Representatives canceled voting Monday night. Likewise, the Senate postponed a Foreign Relations Committee hearing for Wednesday.
By Monday afternoon, airlines had already canceled more than 6,000 flights through Wednesday, according to FlightAware. Airlines operating out of Boston’s Logan International Airport canceled all flights after 7 p.m. on Monday, and said they hoped to restart service on Wednesday. Several airports in New York and New Jersey remained open Monday night, though many were inundated with cancellations and planned minimal or no service Tuesday. Amtrak also reduced service Monday, and announced in the evening that it was suspending its Northeast Regional and Acela Express train service between New York and Boston on Tuesday.
While all Broadway shows Monday night were canceled in New York City, the New York Stock Exchange operated regularly throughout the day, and planned to be open again on Tuesday, spokesman Eric Ryan told CNBC. Weather-related market shutdowns historically are rare: The exchange last closed due to extreme weather for two days after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
As the night darkened Monday and the winter storm grew wilder, New York City food pantries and homeless shelters offered a refuge for many. At St. Bartholomew’s Church in Midtown Manhattan, a larger-than-usual crowd of about 220 people came for food and clothing. Although organizers expected the weather to curtail their fleet of trucks, volunteers said they planned to continue to drive around the city delivering food to those in need.
Additional reporting by Michele Richinick and Emma Margolin.