Travel reduced to essentials, airports, schools and anti-Covid vaccination centers closed: the northeast of the United States was caught on Monday in a snowstorm close to the blizzard, which could go into the annals of the heaviest falls of recorded snow in New York.
From Washington to Boston, from Pennsylvania to Maine, tens of millions of residents were on high alert for this northward storm. At 2 p.m. local time, the snow cover had reached 40 cm in places, and the snow was expected to continue to fall heavily until the evening, and again on Tuesday in lesser amounts, with squalls of up to 80 km / h, said Joe Pollina, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
According to data collected since 1869 in Central Park, a layer of more than 50 cm would rise in the eight snowiest episodes recorded in New York. The record dates from January 22-24, 2016, with nearly 70 cm.
If the visibility conditions were generally better than those corresponding to the definition of a blizzard, some evoked the historic “great blizzard” of March 1888: the city, taken by surprise in early spring, had then deplored dozens of deaths and considerable material damage.
The mayor of the American economic capital, Bill de Blasio, declared a local state of emergency in order to facilitate the clearance work and the intervention of the emergency services.
It closed until Tuesday including schools that remained open despite the pandemic – mainly preschools and elementary schools – returning all students to online education.
While many workers have been working from home since March, he asked the estimated eight million residents to avoid non-essential and closed trips, including cabins set up on sidewalks by many restaurants, in order to continue serving in outdoors despite COVID-19 restrictions.
The COVID-19 vaccination centers, which operate only by appointment – in great demand for lack of sufficient vaccines – were also closed until Tuesday included.
“At this rate of snowfall, the snowplows can’t keep up,” warned New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Most commuter trains serving New York and skytrain sections were scheduled to close in the afternoon.
“If you are not an essential worker, you should not be outside,” added the governor, warning motorists that they risk getting stuck on impassable roads.
Slow motion congress
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has also declared a state of emergency, giving authorities the ability to close roads, evacuate homes, and bring in equipment needed for public safety.
Almost all flights to or from the three airports serving the area, John F. Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark, have been canceled, one of their officials, Rick Cotton, said. In Boston, where snowfall was expected in the late afternoon, half of the flights scheduled to take off were canceled, according to the Flight Aware website.
Across the country, more than 1,600 flights were canceled Monday at midday.
The federal capital Washington, where the snow had arrived on Sunday, postponed until Tuesday the return to school scheduled for Monday for thousands of schoolchildren, after almost a year of interruption due to the pandemic.
As Democrats and Republicans negotiated a new economic stimulus package, Congress slowed down, and President Joe Biden postponed a scheduled visit to the State Department.
No serious accident in the metropolitan areas concerned was immediately reported.
But in the suburb of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a couple in their fifties was shot dead by their neighbor after “an altercation over snow clearing” in front of their house, Dale Binker, chief of the police told AFP. of Plains Township.
The shooter took his own life as police arrived to arrest him, he added.