The first winter storm of 2014, Hercules, is dumping snow across the United States, prompting governments to shutter local officers and workers to leave work early.
Here’s a state-by-state look at what’s happening.
—————Upstate New York
With a frigid, windy snowstorm approaching, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered three major highways in New York, stretching from Long Island to Albany, to close overnight Thursday.
The governor’s unusual decision came as New York City and its northern suburbs were under awinter storm warning and Long Island was under a blizzard warning, with wind gusts up to 45 mph and up to 10 inches of snow predicted Thursday and Friday.
The National Weather Service said up to 9 inches could hit the city, and areas from Buffalo to Albany were expecting up to 14 inches.
“This is nothing to be trifled with,” Cuomo said, declaring a state of emergency statewide. “People should seriously consider staying in their homes.”
The storm came in a day after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, and supervising the cleanup could be his first big test. At a news conference Thursday, he said he was “focused like a laser on protecting this city.”
“It would be nice to have a nice calm first day but we have snow on our mind,” he said.
The governor ordered the Long Island Expressway, Interstate 84 in the Hudson Valley and the state Thruway south of Albany closed to all traffic at midnight. He ordered I-84 closed to commercial traffic at 5 p.m.
Cuomo said the highways should reopen at 5 a.m. Friday, but a final decision would be made in the hour before then.
A weather service forecaster said cold temperatures would be as significant as the snowfall, with wind chills as low as 15 degrees below zero on Friday.
“It’s a two-story storm,” said meteorologist Joseph Pollina. “The snow and the cold.” He said a high of 15 was predicted for Friday in New York City, which would make it the coldest day there since Jan. 10, 2004.
Cuomo said frigid temperatures can cause “all types of mayhem and chaos.” De Blasio urged New Yorkers to “stay indoors to the maximum extent possible.” He said extra 911 dispatchers and police and fire units would be available. And he urged New Yorkers to “keep an eye out for your neighbors.”
Among the equipment in place at airports and bridges were melters that can liquefy up to 500 tons of snow an hour, the agency said. Two dozen plows and spreaders were handling the George Washington Bridge alone.
Con Ed spokesman Sidney Alvarez said the electric utility was expecting the snowfall to be powdery, rather than wet and heavy. “But with any type of snow you’re looking at extra weight on branches that can snap and bring power lines down.”
He said crews were “on alert and ready to mobilize,” especially in the northern suburbs where the snow might be heavier and trees more prevalent.
PSEG Long Island, which just took over responsibility for the island’s electric grid on Wednesday, said the wind would add to the challenge of keeping the power on.
“We’re really worried about the gusts,” said spokesman Paul Rosengren. “When they’re 40-50 mph you have a danger of trees or limbs coming down on the power lines.” He also said extreme cold can make outdoor work dangerous.
New York City ordered all construction sites secured. Its schools were open Thursday but many elsewhere in the metro area closed pre-emptively or planned early dismissals. At the Toga bike shop on Manhattan’s West Side, metal-studded bicycle tires were on sale for $45 each.
Jamesie Killeen, walking his dog Nutley in the Bronx, said he heard a foot of snow could fall, but decided to be optimistic.
“Maybe this will be it for the year,” he said. “Get it out of the way on Jan. 2.”
Officials are warning New Jersey residents to stay off the roads as snow starts to fall in many parts of the state.
Gov. Chris Christie has declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm, which is expected to produce near blizzard conditions at times along the shore and in northwestern New Jersey.
The governor also authorized the closing of state offices on Friday for all non-essential workers. State courthouses are also closed Friday.
Snow is expected to continue through Friday afternoon, bringing significant accumulation, low visibility and frigid temperatures.
Most of the state is under a winter storm warning. The National Weather Service is warning that strong winds and dangerously cold wind chills could accompany the storm.
New Jersey Transit is cross-honoring all tickets Thursday and Friday.
Snow-covered roads have led to many accidents in parts of New Hampshire on Thursday, as a number of school districts are staying closed for another vacation day and some flights are being delayed at canceled at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
State police temporarily closed a busy section of Interstate 93 northbound just south of the Interstate 89 junction in Bow because of accidents involving at least nine vehicles Thursday morning, including two tractor trailers. Three people were taken to hospitals with injuries; their conditions weren’t immediately known. The road was reopened by noon.
Light snow was falling across much of the state and the Department of Transportation lowered speeds to 45 mph on sections of I-93 and 89. The snow was expected to pick up Thursday night.
Gov. Maggie Hassan encouraged residents to exercise common sense in following all traffic and safety alerts during the long-duration storm, which was accompanied by falling temperatures.
“This is a cold storm and black pavement can be deceiving when anti-icing chemicals have limited effectiveness,” said Bill Janelle, director of operations for the Transportation Department. “Conditions in many locations may be worse than they appear. Right now the message is slow down! No motorist should be currently going more than 45 MPH on any New Hampshire road.”
About 6 to 10 inches of snow is expected in the southern half of New Hampshire, and up to a foot in the Seacoast area. Lesser amounts are expected farther north.
The storm is expected to last into Friday morning.
A winter storm was pushing eastward out of Michigan late Thursday after dumping as much as 10 inches of snow and snarling traffic, causing numerous crashes.
A tanker carrying crude oil crashed and went off a bridge about 11 a.m. Thursday on snowy Interstate 69 in Genesee County’s Davison Township, forcing the temporary evacuation of nearby homes and businesses. The truck was carrying 120,000 pounds of thousands of pounds of crude oil, MLive.com reported. The crash caused a fire, releasing toxic fumes.
Officials briefly ordered a 1-mile evacuation of the area and advised people to stay indoors.
The truck’s driver is “the luckiest man I know today,” said Davison fire Chief Mike Wright.
“Somehow he came off that bridge and got out of the vehicle by himself,” said Wright. “He was standing (there) when I pulled up and I was talking to him.”
(AP Photo/The Flint Journal, Jake May)
(AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Mark Bugnaski)
At least 10 inches of snow fell in Allegan in southwestern Michigan during the multi-day storm, the National Weather Service said. It said 8.6 inches fell at Schoolcraft near Kalamazoo and 8.6 inches in Barry County.
The chill accompanying the storms has pushed temperatures down into in the teens and single digits for most of the state Thursday evening. Pot Hope near the tip of the Thumb region was the state’s hot spot at 5 p.m. with a reading of 19 degrees. Drummond Island in Lake Huron east of the Upper Peninsula reported a reading of minus 7.
AAA Michigan received 3,100 Thursday through 4 p.m. after assisting 3,000 people on New Year’s Day, said spokeswoman Nancy Cain.
Road crews faced problems with drifting snow and low temperatures that made salt ineffective.
“We initially had 56 trucks on the road until about midnight Wednesday and then ramped things. We currently have 100 trucks at work,” Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Oakland County Road Commission, told The Detroit News. “The biggest problem is the constant snow, drifts as well as low temperatures.”
Ice jams prompted a flood advisory for the Pere Marquette River in Mason County and the Muskegon River in Osceola County.
The coldest blast of weather since 2011 in Maine is coming along with snow, high winds and near-blizzard conditions.
The National Weather Service forecast for the next 24 hours calls for a nasty winter storm.
Meteorologist John Cannon says Friday night has the possibility of temperatures plummeting to minus-35 in the mountains.
It’s so cold that the Smiling Hill Farm cross-country ski area closed for the day on Thursday. Owner Warren Knight says the extreme cold and whiteout conditions made it too dangerous for skiing or snowshoeing.
Even mariners are not immune.
There’s a freezing spray advisory for commercial fishing boats operating in the North Atlantic. Cannon says it’s so cold that fishing boats could accumulate nearly an inch of ice per hour.
Also, some Maine state offices have closed early due tothe storm.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s office says that offices in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Sagadahoc Waldo and York Counties closed at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
LePage says they offices will reopen on Friday. Offices in Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington Counties will stay open on Thursday.
Pennsylvania is bracing for a storm that could dump up to nine or 10 inches of snow in the Pocono Mountains and northwestern Pennsylvania, followed by a blast of dangerously frigid air that will send wind chills below zero.
Snow started falling before dawn Thursday morning in the I-80 corridor in northern Pennsylvania.
The National Weather Service says snowfall will be heaviest Thursday evening before tapering off Friday morning, and will leave at least a few inches throughout much of Pennsylvania.
PennDOT says it’s put salt-spreading trucks on standby and has sprayed salt brine on major expressways and highways. However, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch (pron. SHOKE) is warning that roads won’t be free of ice and snow during winter storms, even with crews working around the clock.
Illinois residents found themselves bracing for sub-zero high temperatures Thursday as they dug out from a winter storm that brought as much as 18 inches of snow to northern parts of the state.
It’s going to be “some of the coldest air we’ve had in a long time,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon, based in Lincoln, said.
The New Year’s Day snow storm stretched into Thursday for parts of Illinois, bringing double-digit snow totals to the suburbs of Chicago. Gurnee had 18 inches and Highwood had 15 inches. In central Illinois snow totals were between 3 and 5 inches.
The snow was blamed for one fatality in on Interstate 72 in Macon County. In DeKalb, assistant public works director Mark Espy told The Daily Chronicle that, “this storm just brings you to your knees.”
Chicago closed its outdoor ice rinks Thursday due to snow.
About 300 flights were canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with delays of about 45 minutes on Thursday. Midway International Airport had minor delays and few cancelations.
Some of the accumulation along Lake Michigan was due to lake-effect snow, forecasters said. That could mean snow rates of 2 inches an hour and local snow totals near the lake of up to a foot. Forecasters warned of frostbite and hypothermia risks as temperatures were expected to drop going into Friday to as low as negative 18 in the Rockford area.
That’s just a taste of the sub-zero temperatures expected Sunday night and through Tuesday in Illinois. The National Weather Service said highs Monday would be between 5 and 10 degrees below zero in the Chicago area. Lows Monday were forecast to drop to 20 below.
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Forecasts for central Illinois call for highs Monday and Tuesday at or just below zero and lows as low as 12 or 13 degrees below zero at night, according to the weather service.
In any case, anyone who doesn’t have to be outside should stay inside, Shimon said.
“The impact would be frost bite in a short period of time,” he said. “Cover all exposed skin if you have to be outside.”
The National Weather Service warned that the last time temperatures fell this low water lines burst, overworked furnaces stopped functioning, car batteries died and local utility companies set usage highs.
Temperatures are expected to rise to the teens by later next week.
The state’s ski areas say the early season is looking good, despite some rain, with the slopes full of skiers, many of whom are staying in area hotels and eating in local restaurants.
Even though northern Vermont is expected to get only a dusting of snow in a storm forecast to hit southern New England and parts of New York on Thursday and Friday, snow down-country boosts interest in skiing, sending people north to the slopes, said JJ Toland, a spokesman for Jay Peak ski resort, just south of the Canadian border.
“We could definitely see some day traffic because God knows we don’t have any beds left,” Toland said on Wednesday. “It’s wondrous chaos up here.”
Toland said the business at Jay Peak is up 24 percent over last year, but comparing this season to last isn’t perfect because the resort has 930 more beds than it did a year ago through the construction of a new hotel and 100 condominiums.
At Killington, farther south in central Vermont, the story was similar. As of just before Christmas, business was about 9.5 percent ahead of the same point in the 2012-13 season and the slopes have been full, spokesman Michael Joseph said.
Last week’s ice storm hurt, Toland and Joseph said, but both resorts have ample snowmaking systems and the temperatures have generally remained cold. Jay Peak got 3 to 4 inches of fluffy snow overnight, Toland said Wednesday.
Parts of southern Vermont are forecast to get 6 to 12 inches of snow in the storm expected to hit this week. The expected amount decreases farther north.
Killington was expecting quite a bit of snow during the first week of January, Joseph said.
“We’re fully operational from peak to peak,” he said, “and we’re working toward being 100 percent open.”
Harsh winter weather is returning to Maryland.
The National Weather Service is forecasting snow and high winds across much of the state Thursday afternoon and Thursday night, followed by frigid temperatures Friday.
The storm could bring 2 to 4 inches of snow to central, northern and western Maryland, and up to 7 inches in the far western mountains.
Winds will pick up overnight and remain strong and gusty Friday, with high temperatures reaching only into the teens. The weather service is predicting wind gusts up to 40 mph.
The Maryland Highway Administration says travelers should plan ahead for hazardous conditions.
The agency says truck drivers, in particular should pay close attention to forecasts and adjust their plans accordingly. The SHA says one jackknifed tractor-trailer can cause big delays.
Connecticut’s governor has called for the early release of state workers and schools across the state were closing early as a coastal winter storm bears down on the Northeast.
Forecasters are calling for the storm to drop a half of foot of snow or more across the state, with the heaviest snow falling Thursday night. Connecticut is also bracing for frigid temperatures on Friday.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged the private sector to consider sending employees home early. Dismissals of executive branch agency workers are beginning at 3 p.m. and continuing in 15-minute intervals.
The governor plans to partially activate the state emergency operations center Thursday afternoon in case it needs to help coordinate the response to any problems created by the storm.
The snow has begun to fall in Rhode Island, and forecasters are warning a winter storm could bring 6 to 10 inches to the state.
The National Weather Service says the light snow is expected to turn into a moderate or heavy snowfall Thursday evening and continue into Friday morning. The weather service is also warning of dangerously low wind chills.
Across the state, many communities have declared parking bans in anticipation of heavy snow. Some schools were closing early, and in Portsmouth, schools were closed altogether on Thursday and Friday. Block Island ferry service is cancelled Thursday.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee urged residents to take precautions for the bitterly cold temperatures and dress properly if going outside