Snow piling up as ‘serious storm’ takes aim at East Coast

A major winter storm began dumping what could end up being a foot of snow on New York City Wednesday evening, while elsewhere there were hundreds of crashes on slick roads, officials said.

The winter storm stretched from northern North Carolina to as far north as southern Maine.

More than 2 inches covered New York’s Central Park as of 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service said, and forecasts call for 8 to 12 inches for parts of the city.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency and closed state offices, noting it was the first major snowstorm of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also comes as states are distributing a recently-authorized vaccine.

“Our theme today probably ought to be: If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” Murphy said at a briefing Wednesday morning.

The storm is thought to have played a role in a crash that killed two people on an interstate in Pennsylvania that involved dozens of vehicles, state police said.

Vehicles were being towed away, traffic was rerouted and I-80 westbound in Clinton County is expected to be closed until Thursday morning, state police and transportation officials said. Police said it was “vitally important” that people limit nonessential travel during the storm.

Virginia state police said they responded to around 200 crashes Wednesday, including one in which a North Carolina man died. Slick roads were a factor in the deadly crash, a police spokeswoman said.

The snowstorm could be the biggest New York City has seen in years, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This is going to be a serious storm,” the mayor said Tuesday in urging residents to prepare.

De Blasio canceled in-person classes for Thursday due to the storm, but after changes made by the Covid-19 pandemic, it would be different than in past years.

“I know we all grew up with the excitement of snow days, but this year is different,” de Blasio tweeted. “Tomorrow will be a FULL REMOTE learning day for our students.”

The snow is expected to last into Thursday morning in many areas. Boston is forecast to get between 8 inches and a foot of snow, while much of the rest of Massachusetts could get 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged residents to take caution while outdoors after what he described as a “very mild fall”: “We clearly haven’t had to deal with something like this in quite some time,” Baker said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of a disaster emergency on Tuesday and urged residents to stay home if possible so that crews could keep roads clear.

Central Pennsylvania might get as much as 24 inches of snow, forecasters said Wednesday morning.

Video posted by the emergency services of Collier Township, just west of Pittsburgh, showed a truck running directly into a response vehicle as a crew was attending to a car accident.

“This is a reminder to please SLOW DOWN and use CAUTION not only in this weather, but ALL the time,” the post said. “Two of our members were almost struck during this incident, please be careful.”

A little less than 6 inches of snow fell at Philadelphia’s airport Wednesday, the weather service said in a statement shortly after 7 p.m.

In Connecticut, where much of the state was forecast to get between a foot and 18 inches of snow, Gov. Ned Lamont joined other states in restricting tractor-trailer traffic during the storm. Connecticut’s ban on the big rigs on highways lasts until 9 p.m. Thursday.

Lamont said the state was anticipating white-out conditions on roads. “We are strongly urging motorists to stay home during the storm unless absolutely critical,” he said in a statement.

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