- Residents of several states are being advised to avoid travel.
- State police in Maryland and Virginia responded to multiple incidents.
- New York City schools switched to virtual learning for Thursday.
Cities across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, salted roads, pre-positioned plows and asked residents to avoid travel as a major winter storm moved in Wednesday afternoon, bringing traffic crashes and power outages with it.
“If you absolutely don’t have to travel tonight or tomorrow, it would be great if you could just stay put and let the road crews do the work that they need to do,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
“The last thing we all need to deal with right now, in the midst of everything else that’s going on, iarecar accidents and other collisions as a result of what will be fairly treacherous driving conditions.”
Baker pointed out that traffic is lighter than usual due to a large number of people working from home. Massachusetts also has a stay-at-home advisory nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to coronavirus restrictions.
He said 3,800 pieces of snow-clearing equipment would be deployed for operations on about 15,000 miles of highways.
The system, named Winter Storm Gail by The Weather Channel, is expected to bring heavy snow, strong winds and possible coastal flooding from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday. Winds could gust as high as 50 mph in some areas.
State police in Virginia were already responding to an increasing number of calls on Wednesday afternoon.
About 18,000 homes and businesses were without power across the state as of about 3:30 p.m. EST, according to poweroutage.us.
Maryland State Police responded to 489 calls for service, including 161 crashes and 60 unattended or disabled vehicles betwen 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Officials throughout the affected regions declared states of emergency and echoed Baker’s plea to stay at home.
“Take this seriously,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an update Tuesday night.
The mayor urged residents to take mass transit or work from home, if possible.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency, effective at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The state also issued commercial vehicle travel restrictions on portions of several interstates, including I-78, I-80 and I-280. Vehicles under the restrictions include tractor-trailers, passenger vehicles pulling trailers, recreational vehicles and motorcycles.
The speed limit was lowered to 35 mph on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which carries Interstate 295 across the river from New Jersey to Delaware.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also issued a disaster emergency proclamation for most of his state.
“Commonwealth agencies have been watching this storm for several days, and we are ready to provide whatever support is needed to keep our citizens safe during this potentially dangerous storm,” Wolf said in a news release. “We encourage you to prepare now to keep your loved ones safe, and also avoid any unnecessary travel.”
Crews and equipment were ramped up to keep roadways clear.
“One-hundred pieces of equipment are expected to be mobilized during the beginning of the event,” Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams said, according to WPVI-TV. “We’re preparing for a full deployment of additional crews and equipment contingent upon additional snow accumulation throughout the entire event.”
More than 300 snow plows were deployed overnight in Washington D.C. to apply salt to highways, streets, ramps, bridges and elevated roadways.
Crews in Charlottesville, Virginia, were applying 20,000 gallons of brine solution to help keep roads clear, WWBT-TV reported. Similar operations were happening around the state, according to the state Department of Transportation.
In New York City, de Blasio announced that schools would transition to virtual learning on Thursday.
Philadelphia schools, already in virtual learning, will continue with classes, the city said in a news release.
Amtrak modified or canceled several train routes through Friday.
Winter Storm Gail is likely to impact air travel, too. Delta, Southwest, United and American Airlines are waiving change fees for flights that might be affected. Airport officials advised travelers to monitor flight status closely.
Because power outages are possible, officials were also reminding people to practice care when using generators or other equipment such as gas grills.
“Our concern is that carbon monoxide is a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S.,” Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego said, according to WATM-TV.
Generators should be placed at least 10 feet from buildings and gas grills should never be used indoors. Trego also reminded residents not to warm up their car inside a garage, even with the garage doors open.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.