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NYC grinds to a halt amid deadly East Coast blizzard
Near-record snowfall results in at least 3 deaths, prompts travel ban
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NYC grinds to a halt amid deadly East Coast blizzard
The snow has not even stopped falling and in addition to snow, other statisitcs are rising. Here is a breakdown of some of the storm statistics so far. USA TODAYCONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE
NEW YORK — A massive winter storm ground New York City and surrounding suburbs to a halt Saturday, forcing a vehicle travel ban, closing or curtailing rail and subway service and shutting theaters as higher-than-forecast snowfall inundated the metropolitan area.
The storm, at least the third-largest in city weather history as it continued to rage into late Saturday night, also proved deadly. Three snow shovelers, one on Staten Island and two in Queens, died of apparent heart-related injuries, said James O'Neill, chief of department for the New York Police Department.
All non-government motor traffic in New York City and on Long Island's Northern State Parkway and Long Island Expressway was banned starting at 2:30 p.m., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during an afternoon briefing after he issued an emergency declaration for southeastern New York.
Cuomo said he and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also agreed to order a 2:30 p.m. halt to travel on all Port Authority bridges and tunnels that cross the Hudson River to New York City from New Jersey.
Service on the suburban Metro-North and Long Island Railroad powered down, and the final trains ended service for the day at 4 p.m., Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.
MTA Transit Authority President Ronnie Hakim said service at all New York City subway stations where the rail system runs above ground also ended at 4 p.m. She urged riders to check www.mta.info for updates.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced shortly before 6 p.m. that the travel ban, initially scheduled to expire at midnight, had been extended until Sunday morning. Cuomo's office tweeted later that the ban would be lifted at 7 a.m. Sunday, "which gives workers the night to clear roads."
NYC under travel ban from deadly East Coast snowstorm
The MTA halted the city's public bus service at noon Saturday, as the National Weather Service raised New York City snowfall predictions to 24-28 inches.
Earlier forecasts had projected up to 18 inches of snow, but 11.5 inches blanketed Manhattan's Central Park by late morning as the blizzard continued to rage. By 7 p.m., the Central Park total stood at 25,1 inches, making the event the third-largest single snowstorm measured at the location since city weather record-keeping began in 1869.
The National Weather Service said the continuing storm could surpass the city's largest similar event, the Feb. 11-12, 2006 snow storm that dropped a measured 26.9 inches at Central Park.
The storm, which was often accompanied by winds that gusted over 30 miles per hour, also flirted with blizzard status during its rampage.
"This storm has come in wetter, stronger and farther north than most of the models predicted," said John Davitt, chief meteorologist for NY1, a New York City 24-hour cable news station.
Blizzard 2016: 10,000 flight cancellations and counting
In light of the travel bans, de Blasio asked New York City's restaurant and Broadway theater owners to close for the day, and allow employees to return home. The Broadway League subsequently announced a cancellation of Saturday matinee and evening performances.
Although Manhattan northbound and southbound avenues appeared to be largely open and plowed, during Saturday many east-west side streets remained blanketed with heavy snow Saturday evening. Some residents of the city's outer boroughs also complained their streets had not yet been plowed.
New Yorkers and visitors walked down the middle of vehicle-free streets, and some made snow angels in New York City's famed Times Square, according to NY1. But most of the city's focus was on the storm's more serious aspects.
"When the snowfall hits a certain rate, the plows literally can't keep up," said Cuomo Saturday afternoon, citing public safety concerns for imposing the travel restrictions. "That's where we are."
City and state officials said the ban applies to all motor travel except for government or medical emergency vehicles. New York City police will enforce the restrictions, said de Blasio, who warned "if you're a citizen out driving, you will be subject to arrest."
Snowstorm brings major coastal flooding along East Coast
The blizzard also grounded most air travel into and out of the city. Virtually all flights were canceled Saturday at Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports, said Patrick Foy, executive director of the Port Authority.
New York City and state officials, vividly recalling the major area flooding damage caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Super Storm Sandy in 2012, monitored coastal areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens during Saturday's high tides, which occurred during a full moon that boosts the tidal impact.
"The flooding is probably the most problematic situation," said Cuomo, who indicated that Saturday morning's high tide caused no major damage.
A second high tide rolled in on city shorelines Saturday night. However, no major flooding was immediately reported.
Separately, Cuomo said several thousand metro area power outages were reported, mostly on Long Island, where many power lines are strung overhead on poles and can be damaged by falling trees or branches during high-wind storms.
The travel ban and shutdowns pose economically costly and politically sensitive issues for New York state and city leaders. The loss of theater and restaurant income, and the time, difficulty and inconvenience associated with restoring regular mass transit service can provoke business owners, public employee union workers and city and state residents and visitors.
Cuomo and de Blasio were second-guessed last January, when they and the MTA shut down the New York City subway system as a precaution as a massive winter storm was forecast for the New York metro area. The storm, however, largely bypassed the city, instead battering New England and eastern Long Island.
"It seems that the weather forecasters got it right this time," a smiling Cuomo said during a Manhattan news briefing Saturday morning.
Perhaps recalling that he suggested the 2015 forecasts had been inaccurate — statements that drew ire from NBC Today weatherman Al Roker and some meteorologists, prompting the governor to backtrack — Cuomo quickly acknowledged that storm forecasters are often correct.
Contributing: Elysa Gardner
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