Big snowstorm hits New York, northeastern US

New York, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- The northeastern United States on Monday is suffering under the impact of a big winter storm that threatens to dump up to half a meter (1.6 feet) of snow on New York City, a situation that would be one of the largest snowfalls in the history of the Big Apple, where city authorities have already declared an emergency and have temporarily halted the anti-Covid vaccination campaign.

Early Monday morning, more than 15 centimeters (6 inches) of snow had already fallen amid the city’s skyscrapers, but forecasts are for the snow to continue falling all day and into Tuesday.

According to experts, the storm could hit New York nonstop for the next 48 hours and leave more than half a meter of the white stuff on the ground, something that has not been seen for many years.

According to the federal weather service, New York City has only suffered snowfalls of this magnitude seven times since 1800, with the greatest accumulation having been registered in January 2016, when 70 cm (27.5 in.) fell.

Given the situation and the heavy winds that are expected to accompany the storm, municipal and state authorities declared a state of emergency, restricting people’s movement and urging everyone to avoid going out and about unless absolutely necessary.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference that between two and four inches of snow were expected per hour during the “most intense” periods of the storm.

The storm has forced New York to temporarily halt its ongoing vaccination campaign against Covid-19, postponing all vaccination appointments scheduled for Monday and Tuesday with plans to rescheduled them in the coming days.

De Blasio said that the authorities don’t want people, especially the elderly, to go out under these conditions to get vaccinated, and he also ordered the closing of schools and at least two days of remote learning for all students.

According to the mayor, the delay in the vaccination campaign can be made up rather quickly, since the city has put in place significant resources to administer them and in the coming days this effort can be accelerated even more.

The big problem, he said, is the lack of vaccine doses in New York, where the vaccination rate has recently fallen off from what it had been.

De Blasio said that so far some 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the city, with people over 65 and essential workers, including health care personnel, being the first groups to have received it.

The snowstorm, according to local media, has also complicated vaccinations efforts in other nearby cities and states, including Washington DC, Philadelphia and neighboring New Jersey.

The storm has almost paralyzed air traffic throughout the region, with some airports in the New York area, including La Guardia, forced to suspend all their activities and others like John F. Kennedy and the Newark airport operating at minimum levels with most of their flights cancelled.

About 100 flights at the Philadelphia airport and almost 200 at the Boston airport have also been cancelled.

In all, on Monday at least 1,620 flights in the US have been cancelled, according to the Flightaware air traffic Web site.

Meanwhile, the snow and the heavy winds are also affecting local rail traffic and the metro trains that run above ground, with authorities warning of probable closures during the day and with New Jersey already cancelling a large portion of those services.

Along the local highways, the situation is also very problematic, given that snow removal equipment cannot deal with the rate of snowfall, the result being that certain heavily traveled routes and roadways have had to be closed.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the storm “is not a joke” and the main concern now is the rate of snowfall – anticipated to be about 5 cm (2 in.) per hour – which creates very dangerous driving conditions on local roads and highways.

In the coastal zones, authorities warned of the risk of flooding and issued an alert that will be in effect until sometime on Tuesday.


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