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A major winter storm that buried millions across the Northeast on Monday brought blizzard-like conditions, forcing states across the region to cancel vaccine appointments, suspend flights, and close roads and schools.
The National Weather Service warned that widespread heavy snow that could total more than 2 feet is forecast from Pennsylvania into New England through Tuesday, with snowfall rates reaching up to three inches an hour and wind gusts peaking as high as 60 mph.
As of Tuesday morning, the nor’easter had pelted New York City's Central Park with 16.8 inches; Hartford, 11.7 inches; Philadelphia, 6.1 inches; Albany, New York, 4.4 inches; and Boston, 1.2 inches.
Newton, New Jersey, recorded 32 inches, the highest total on the East Coast while Nazareth, Pennsylvania saw 31 inches and Harrison, New York, reported 24.5 inches.
A vast number of flights have been suspended at major airports, including all flights at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport. About 75 percent of flights at Newark Liberty International Airport were canceled.
Many Covid-19 vaccination appointments were canceled and rescheduled in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City.
NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said the tristate area could see its biggest snowstorm in five years, while New York City could get up to 20 inches possible if one of the heavy snow bands sits over the city.
Karins said the National Weather Service’s New York office forecast has called for 21 inches in Central Park, which would tie it for the fourth largest snowstorm in New York City’s history.
So just to be clear, the new forecast for NYC of 21" would equal the snow that fell in the Blizzard of 1888 and tie the 4th largest snowfall in NYC history! pic.twitter.com/FddGvzAxKU
— Bill Karins (@BillKarins) January 31, 2021
Periods of light snow will continue on and off through early Tuesday, he added.
Seven people appear to have died in the storm, most of them in Pennsylvania. In Luzerne County, a married couple was allegedly killed on Monday morning after a dispute over snow removal, the Associated Press reported. The suspect was later found dead with what authorities believe was a self-inflicted wound, according to the AP.
In Allentown, a 67-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease died of hypothermia after wandering away from her home, NBC Philadelphia reported. Her body was found four blocks away on Monday morning.
In Adamstown, Maryland, a 64-year-old man died after the recycling services truck he was riding on the back of overturned on an ice- and snow-covered roadway at around noon Monday, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said.
And two people — a 69-year-old woman and a 42-year-old woman — died in Pennsylvania in separate incidents on Sunday, state police said. The 42-year-old woman died in a crash during the snowstorm in Tioga County, and the other 69-year-old crashed in slick conditions during snow in Bucks County.
Local authorities warn against travel
The National Weather Service warned that travel conditions will be “difficult to impossible" across the northeast.
The Maryland State Patrol said Monday morning they answered almost 900 calls and responded to 330 crashes and about 150 disabled or unattended vehicles on Sunday. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a Monday news conference that state troopers have responded to 340 accidents and 295 motorist aid calls.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Monday press conference that the city has a “big challenge on our hands.”
“Blizzard conditions, stay off the roads, stay off the streets,” de Blasio said. “We do not want any non-essential traveling going on.”
The mayor said schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday, but are expected to reopen Wednesday. He added that health officials are rescheduling appointments for coronavirus vaccinations on Monday and Tuesday.
"The last thing we want to do is urge our seniors to come out in the middle of a storm like this," de Blasio said on Sunday, warning residents not to underestimate weather conditions.
The mayor tweeted on Sunday that nonessential travel would be restricted as part of a local state of emergency.
“This winter storm will be dangerous with heavy snowfall and strong winds,” de Blasio said. “If you can stay home, stay home.”
Among other states that closed major coronavirus vaccination sites are Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.
All flights at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport were canceled on Monday. Newark Liberty International Airport has canceled about 75 percent of its flights.
Other areas of the country were also hit
The storm had already blanketed parts of the Midwest with the most snow some places had seen in several years. Chicago got almost 11 inches of snow by Monday morning. In Wisconsin, snow depths in some counties near Lake Michigan had reached more than 15 inches.
A video showed the second largest Great Lake impressively frozen over with a coat of snow on Monday.
— J.M. Pasquesi (@JMPasquesi) February 1, 2021
Snow also hit the Washington metropolitan area, with over two inches reported in several areas, but another round of snow is possible Monday morning. The city's inclement weather prompted President Joe Biden to postpone a visit to the State Department that had been planned for Monday, a White House official told NBC News.
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) January 31, 2021
While people in affected areas were advised to remain indoors and avoid traveling, the giant pandas at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., took full advantage of the winter wonderland and were captured on camera frolicking in the snow.