Snowstorm blankets US east coast, threatening vaccine rollout

It also left more than 60m people under bad weather warnings from Maine to South Carolina

by AFP / pic by AFP

NEW YORK • A major snowstorm hit the US east coast during yesterday’s early hours, creating extra challenges in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic and a mass vaccination rollout taking place across the region.

The winter storm, moving over New York, Pennsylvania and other northeastern states, leaves millions facing more than a foot of snow a week before Christmas, potentially disrupting coronavirus testing and delaying holiday deliveries.

It also left more than 60 million people under bad weather warnings from Maine to South Carolina.

New York City, if hit as badly by the storm as predicted, would be facing the most snow from one storm in more than four years, after it was hit with 2ft in January 2016.

Officials in New York state and Pennsylvania said they were prepared to deal with the bad weather to ensure vaccine delivery schedules went ahead as planned.

Delivery companies FedEx Corp and UPS said they had also put measures in place to mitigate the storm’s effects.

Snowfall rates in both states were two inches per hour, with more than 12 inches in total, according to the US National Weather Service (NWS).

It said snow could reach up to 2ft in some parts of the states, which both dispatched plows to keep the roads clear.

Boston, the most populous city in Massachusetts, imposed an emergency and issued a parking ban on key roads for workers.

“Confidence is high that this major winter storm will result in significant impacts including travel disruptions and power outages across much of the northern Mid-Atlantic, southern New York and southern into central New England,” the NSW said in a tweet late Wednesday.

Despite the potential disruption, people rushed to play in New York City’s famous Times Square — some dressed as characters such as Elmo and Batman, and others having snowball fights — as it became blanketed in white.

While the snow brought joy for some, restaurants stacked chairs and tables and shuttered after a snow alert effectively put an end to outdoor dining, the last hope of custom for some business owners because of social-distancing rules.

In Pennsylvania, the transport department told drivers to limit journeys and introduced new speed restrictions to prevent accidents.

Hundreds of schools announced they would close and again retreat to online learning, bolstered by the experience of the pandemic.

Airlines also cancelled hundreds of flights on Wednesday, preventing many — some returning home for Christmas — from travelling.