NEW YORK: A major winter storm pounded the US East Coast on Friday, whipping up strong winds and dumping heavy rain and snow, forcing the cancellation or delay of thousands of flights and the closure of federal government offices in Washington.
Coastal flooding alerts were issued from New Jersey to Massachusetts with winter weather advisories, winter storm warnings and high wind warnings in effect from the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic, the National Weather Service said.
Winter Storm Riley dropped more than a foot (30.5 centimeters) of snow in western and northern parts of New York state, as heavy rain lashed coastal areas. The storm is expected to taper off overnight or by early Saturday.
More than 3,000 flights were cancelled within, into or out of the United States on Friday and more than 2,400 others delayed, according to the website FlightAware.
More than half the flights scheduled to arrive and depart from New York’s LaGuardia airport were cancelled, with sweeping disruptions at Boston Logan International and New York’s two other area airports, Newark and John F. Kennedy International.
Amtrak, the US national railroad passenger service, announced that “for safety” all services along the North East corridor were temporarily suspended.
Trains already en route between the US capital, New York, and Boston would continue to their destinations and hold, it announced.
New York, the most populous US city and home to 8.5 million people, was expected to avoid heavy snow but was forecast to receive two to three inches of rain and wet snow (six centimeters), with wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour).
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that Long Island and New York City would see winds of 40 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 70 possible in eastern Long Island. Wind at that speed has the potential to uproot trees and cause power outages.
In the federal capital Washington and surrounding suburbs, public schools were closed due a storm that some dubbed online as Windmaggedon.
A plane attempting to land at Ronald Reagan was forced to abort its first attempt amid intense wind before touching down 10 minutes later, according to ABC news which broadcast footage at the incident.
A pilot landing at Washington Dulles International Airport meanwhile reported to authorities that the descent of his United flight from Charlottesville, Virginia was so turbulent that “pretty much everyone on the plane threw up.”
Dulles airport also briefly evacuated its control tower due to high winds.
In Massachusetts, authorities reported more than 100,000 power outages by mid-afternoon, warning that additional power cuts were likely and ordered some coastal communities to evacuate, warning that they expected homes to sustain significant damage.
State police announced the closure of roads and businesses in coastal areas as the National Weather Service warned that shoreline neighborhoods would stay inundated and cutoff, with water unable to drain until the storm passes.
Weather forecasters urged people to avoid driving through flood waters or head to the coast to watch the flooding, flagging up reports of stranded motorists. – AFP