New York City Faces Heavy Snowfall, Closes Schools

New York City closed all public schools as the U.S. National Weather Service extended its winter storm warning for the metropolitan area until 6 a.m. tomorrow, saying the city faced “near-blizzard” conditions.

The storm, which began about 8 a.m. yesterday, is forecast to leave 18 inches (46 centimeters) or more as it lashes the largest U.S. city with winds up to 35 mph (56 kph). By 6 a.m., 16.9 inches had fallen in Central Park, the agency said.

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“An intense storm will drift from Connecticut southwestward into the New York City metropolitan area today,” the service said. Snow, wind and ice “will make travel very hazardous or impossible.”

Airlines including Continental Airlines Inc. canceled hundreds of flights after snow began falling yesterday. Speculation that the snows would reduce demand for motor fuel contributed to a drop in gasoline futures. All New York City public schools will close today because of the snow, the city’s Department of Education said on its Web site.

AccuWeather Inc. warned of downed trees and power lines and said winds may cause whiteouts in some areas. A man was killed by a falling tree branch in New York’s Central Park, WNBC reported.

“This will be a heavy wet snow and will be more difficult than usual to shovel, possibly causing back, shoulder and wrist injuries, and even heart attacks if not handled properly,” the weather service said.

Second Storm

The current system is the second winter storm of the week for the U.S. Northeast. It came just weeks after parts of the mid-Atlantic region set seasonal records for snowfall.

Gasoline for March delivery declined 6.17 cents, or 2.9 percent, to settle yesterday at $2.037 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Demand numbers are going to be annihilated by the bad weather,” said Ray Carbone, president of Paramount Options Inc. in New York and a trader at the Nymex.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on its Web site that all subways, buses, railroads, bridges and tunnels will operate a “normal or near-normal morning rush hour,” except for the Metro-North Railroad, which will run a special service, with 5-to-10 minute delays possible.

More than 1,500 flights were halted across the Northeast yesterday, most of them in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. That represented about 3 percent of the 50,000 flights scheduled in the U.S. this time of year, according to FlightStats.com, a Web site that tracks aircraft movements.

Flights Canceled

Continental canceled flights including all 200 of its regional partner airlines from Newark’s Liberty International Airport, said Mary Clark, a spokeswoman for the carrier.

Amtrak canceled eight trains on its Empire Service line in upstate New York yesterday. Some service between New York City and Albany-Rensselaer was temporarily reduced. CSX Corp., which owns the line, repairs tracks and systems damaged by trees, said Tracy Connell, a spokeswoman for the passenger railway.

CSX, the third-largest U.S. railroad by revenue, said its customers should expect delays during “the worst of the storm” and that its effects will linger through the weekend. The lines are used by shippers including coal producers.

Two crude oil tankers put off unloading in Portland, Maine, at least until today, said Tony Youells, port manager for Inchcape Shipping Services, a shipping agent. Waves as high as 25 feet are forecast in the waters off Maine according to the National Weather Sevice.

‘Battering Waves’

“Large battering waves will cause a prolonged period of beach erosion with periods of significant splash-over and possible coastal flooding near the times of high tide,” the service’s office in Gray, Maine, said in an advisory.

Winter storm warnings, meaning heavy snow, ice and freezing rain are imminent, were issued from Maryland to Maine. Blizzard warnings stretched from the mountains of North Carolina into West Virginia. Warnings for gusts as high as 65 miles per hour were posted for parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

About 75,000 customers in New York and New England were already without power as the storm moved through the Northeast, according to utilities. A system brought rain to New York City and almost two feet of snow to western Massachusetts starting Feb. 23, disrupting air traffic in Newark, Boston, Baltimore and New York.

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