A major snowstorm producing blizzard-like conditions hammered the northeastern United States on Friday, causing more than 1,000 U.S. flight delays and cancellations, paralyzing road travel, and closing schools and government offices.
The first major winter storm of 2014 brought bone-chilling temperatures and high winds from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, with nearly 2 feet of snow falling in some areas of Massachusetts.
Much of the U.S. northeast saw heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures late on Thursday and early on Friday morning, said Jared Guyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The weather service said the mass of Arctic air would drop temperatures to levels 20 to 30 degrees below normal, with record lows possible on Friday. It was still snowing in some places, such as Boston, "but we are probably past the peak in terms of intensity at this point," Guyer said, adding that the bitter cold and snow-scattering winds showed no signs of letting up.
Snowfall reports varied widely, with Washington receiving more than 2 inches, Baltimore some 3 to 6 inches, Philadelphia roughly 5 inches, Hartford 6 to 10 inches and Boston some 14 inches.
"If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow," said Zander Fortier, a 29-year-old architect from Boston's Roslindale neighborhood, where the flakes fell steadily on Thursday.
Residents grappled on Friday with road and school closures throughout the region. "Severe weather conditions" led officials to close New York City public schools on Friday morning. Schools were also closed in Hoboken and Jersey City, in New Jersey, and in Boston and Providence Massachusetts.
The storm also posed the first major challenge to Bill de Blasio, the newly-elected Mayor of New York, which expected to see up to 8 inches of snow.
More than 1,400 U.S. flights were canceled and more than 340 were delayed early on Friday, according to flightaware.com.
New York's three major airports prepared hundreds of cots to accommodate stranded travelers and Logan International Airport said that up to a quarter of its scheduled flights had been canceled on Thursday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday warned people to stay in their homes and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told non-essential state workers to head home on Thursday, as did his officials in neighboring Connecticut.
"Tomorrow people should definitely consider staying in their homes if the storm continues as we expect," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "This is nothing to be trifled with. We have learned too well over the past few years the power of Mother Nature. We have seen the damage that has been done."
A city worker in Philadelphia was killed after a machine he was using was crushed by a mound of de-icing rock salt, NBC News reported. In Chicago, a man was in critical condition after being pulled out of an icy Lake Michigan by fire fighters.
With additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere, Marina Lopes and Scott DiSavino in New York, Daniel Lovering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ian Simpson in Washington, and Lisa Garza in Dallas, all of Reuters.