Storm Disrupts Flights, Closes Schools From Washington to NYC

Thousands of flights were canceled, schools in New York closed and the U.S. Congress suspended work as a winter storm threatened to drop as much as 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) on parts of the East Coast today.

The storm, the second for the Washington-Baltimore area in less than a week, will be accompanied by cold and winds gusting from 35 to 55 mph (56 to 88 kph) in the Northeast, forecasters said. Ten to 20 inches could fall in Washington and Baltimore, while 10 to 16 are forecast for New York.

The winds are likely to be intense enough to rival those of a tropical storm, said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc.

“The words unprecedented and paralyzing would describe what is about to happen to the Philadelphia-Baltimore-DC corridor,” Rouiller said in an e-mail. “It’s looking more likely that blizzard or near-blizzard conditions will hit New York City.”

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Winter storm warnings stretch from Illinois to Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said. The snow began falling at midday yesterday in Washington and was expected to begin in New York overnight.

Heating oil advanced on speculation demand will increase as temperatures plunge in the Northeast, which consumes four-fifths of U.S. home heating fuel. Contracts for March delivery gained 5.18 cents, or 2.7 percent, to settle at $1.9373 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Flights Canceled

Amtrak, the national passenger railroad, hasn’t run a full schedule since last week’s storm, and more trains were canceled yesterday, said Cliff Cole, a spokesman.

At least 2,000 flights have been canceled nationwide, according to U.S. airlines.

US Airways Group Inc. halted 1,300 flights today across its system, including many at New York’s LaGuardia and Washington’s National airports, or 42 percent of its entire schedule, while Delta said it cut “several hundred” and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines trimmed 120.

The U.S. Senate won’t meet today because of the storm, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid announced on the floor yesterday. The House has canceled votes for the rest of the week.

In the New York City area, where a winter storm warning was posted and public school students had the day off, the snow is expected to be heavy at times before tapering off tonight, the National Weather Service in Upton, New York, said.

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In New York City, 365 plow-equipped salt-spreaders were ready to begin operating at first snowfall, said Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Department. The plan calls for some 1,600 plows to start work when 2 inches pile up. Snow removal usually costs the city about $1 million per inch of accumulation, Dawkins said.

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