Snowstorm pounds the Northeast, affecting flights, closing schools

Brian Foster took before and after images of the snow at Central Park in New York City. This is a view of Central Park as seen from the JW Marriott Essex House.

The Northeast hunkered down on Thursday for what looks to be the most significant storm of the season, with a foot of snow of forecast and blizzard conditions in some areas.

The first snow-related death was reported in New York on Thursday when a doorman shoveling snow on the Upper East Side died after slipping and falling through a glass window, New York police said.

The 59-year old man sustained cuts to his neck and face, then was transported to Metropolitan Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

Airlines already have canceled more than 1,600 flights along the storm path as of midday Thursday, according to FlightAware. Most of those were at the Newark, New Jersey; Boston; and New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports.

New York, Boston and Philadelphia have closed their public schools for the day. The latter two have also declared snow emergencies, which affect city services and parking. All state offices in New Jersey have been closed for nonessential personnel.

More than 60 million people will be dealing with the wintry weather, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.

Winter storm warnings are in effect, stretching from Pennsylvania through parts of New York, New Jersey and New England.

The storm was expected to bring strong winds with whiteout conditions at times, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

Impact on Eastern cities

The National Weather Service estimated that 8 to 12 inches of snow in New York and 12 to 15 inches of snow in Boston are possible.

Officials warned residents to avoid morning travel as heavy snow can make roads slick and dangerous. The National Weather Service in New York said that conditions will “rapidly deteriorate around daybreak” and that 2 inches of snow could fall per hour.

New York officials said wind gusts reached 50 mph Thursday morning.

The good news is that the storm is expected to move out quickly. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said snow is expected to stop by 6 p.m. Thursday.

However, snowfall in Boston could continue into the weekend, and temperatures won’t rise above freezing there until Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Trouble on the roadways

With whiteout conditions and snowy, icy roads, officials urged residents not to drive. In Suffolk County, New York, bus service is not operating for the day. In New York City, subways and buses are running with few delays, de Blasio said.

Officials said they have not made a decision on whether to shut the Long Island Expressway, the main roadway on the island.

New Jersey State Police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Flynn told CNN that his department has responded to about 200 reported crashes, but none have been serious or fatal.

A video from Manhattan shows the dangerous conditions, with buses becoming stuck in the streets and snarling traffic.

“Don’t go out if you don’t have to,” de Blasio said. “If you need to go out, please don’t use your car because we need to let our Sanitation Department clear the roads.”

One person who did not heed officials’ warnings: Martha Stewart.

“I decided to plow now I am stuck darn!!!!!” she tweeted.

Schools affected

De Blasio tweeted Wednesday night that New York schools would close. About 1 million students attend the city’s 1,800 public schools, making it the largest school district in the United States.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh also said the city’s public school system would be shut Thursday, and he urged people to be “looking out for your elderly neighbors, disabled neighbors, neighbors who might not be able to help themselves.” Boston has 125 public schools with about 56,000 students.

The School District of Philadelphia, which has 134,041 students, is also closed for the day.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said state colleges and courts would be closed. “This is a serious challenge when you talk about 8 to 14 inches” of snow, he said.

Several colleges in the Northeast including all City University of New York colleges, Rutgers University in New Jersey and MIT in Massachusetts are closed Thursday.

Don’t call it a nor’easter

The storm was expected to pack a punch, but it’s not a nor’easter.

Nor’easters get their name from the winds that blow from the northeast ahead of a storm’s arrival as it moves up the Eastern Seaboard, remaining offshore.

This storm is moving from west to east, from land out to sea, so it can’t be classified as a nor’easter.

The region had a nor’easter on January 24 that jammed roads and caused major disruptions in air travel.

Up and down temps

New Yorkers may be experiencing a bit of “weather whiplash” after enjoying sunny, warm weather a day earlier.

Temperatures Wednesday set a new record high of 65 F at Kennedy airport, nearly 30 degrees above average for early February.

But the mild conditions were short-lived as temperatures plummeted overnight, paving the way for snow.