Furrow-browed weather forecasters struggled Tuesday to figure out just how bad the second Nor’easter in a week will be when it arrives sometime Wednesday in New York, Boston and other major Northeastern cities.
A storm system that blanketed the Plains and the Midwest in snow was rapidly moving north and east, and it was expected to smash into a wet and cold low pressure system sweeping north from the Southeast overnight, the National Weather Service said.
“And that’s our Nor’easter,” said Sherri Pugh, a meteorologist for NBC News.
Authorities throughout the region planned for the worst, not knowing whether they would actually get it. Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said the freezing line dividing snow from rain was expected to snake directly through Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, making it impossible to know whether some of the biggest Northeastern cities would get wet, heavy snow or just a lot of rain.
“For places like Boston and Providence, literally the forecast right now is for zero to 12 inches of snow,” Sarsalari said. The track of the low pressure system “can make this whole area of snow, the really heavy snow, move a little farther toward the north and west or a little farther toward the south and east,” he said.
Snow totals can vary greatly over short distances. It is always important to keep up to date with official snowfall forecasts from https://t.co/0cofXEqkfH since winter forecasts can change frequently. pic.twitter.com/KOOgllsU5c
— NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) March 6, 2018
Heavy snow of a foot or more is expected farther north and west, but it will be accompanied by less severe winds than those that gusted across the region during last week’s Nor’easter, which was blamed for the deaths of at least nine people.
Winter storm warnings — meaning dangerous winter conditions are likely — extended from southeastern Pennsylvania to northern Maine, covering New York City, Philadelphia and metropolitan Boston.
Forecasters said New York City could get 4 to 8 inches of snow on Wednesday, but regardless of the precise mix, the heavy precipitation will likely cause significant problems for New York’s subway system, said Joe Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA.
“The MTA is taking this storm very, very seriously,” Lhota said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re ramping up all of our operations, and we will be prepared.”
And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters: “The situation becomes more complicated because we haven’t yet finished cleaning up from the first storm, and we’re concerned about a compounding effect where tomorrow’s snowstorm, which is supposed to be significant, may delay the repairs that we’re in the midst of.”
Airports in the region pre-emptively canceled more than 1,000 arrivals and departures for Wednesday, more than half of them at the big three New York area airports, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia in the city and Newark in New Jersey. Amtrak said its Northeast Corridor services would run on modified schedules.
UPDATE on service changes for Wed. 3/7 due to pending severe weather in the Northeast region: Details on modified Acela Express, Northeast Regional, Keystone Service, and Empire Service, along with re-accommodation information can be found here: https://t.co/tIcP0KtpKj
— Amtrak Northeast (@AmtrakNEC) March 6, 2018
Pugh said there is reason for optimism in the forecast, however, since the new system was moving more quickly than last week’s did, and “hopefully we won’t have hours and hours of that high-tide flooding.”
But in many areas, last week’s storm had already done more than enough damage. Even as the storm system was winding up for a new punch, more than 170,000 customers still remained without power Tuesday evening from the last one in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts, utility companies reported.
In Duxbury, Massachusetts, authorities and property owners were rushing to beef up the remains of seawalls that buckled on Sunday and collapsed on Monday.
“They’re not even going to be able to pump out all of the water now, so they’re going to have to wait until Friday morning,” Joe Soares, a resident of Duxbury, told New England Cable News.
Another local, Rene Riley, told the station: “We knew it was going to fail at some point, but we didn’t think it would fail as quickly it did.”
On its way east, the storm system created whiteout conditions in parts of the Northern Plains and the Midwest, which were pummeled with high winds and heavy snow.
It was believed to be responsible for the death of a woman in Adair County, Iowa, before dawn Tuesday, according to an Iowa State Patrol accident report. The SUV in which she was riding lost control on a snow-covered highway, over-corrected and struck an oncoming car head-on, according to the report.
Sgt. Nate Ludwig, a spokesman for the State Patrol, told NBC affiliate WHO of Des Moines that two other people were being treated at hospitals with unspecified injuries.