NEW YORK — Airlines canceled more than 3,500 flights, winter storm warnings stretched from Maine to New Jersey and tens of thousands lost power across the region Thursday as the season's largest snow event rolled into the Northeast.
Miguel Gonzalez, a doorman shoveling snow, died after he slipped and fell through a glass window in New York City's Upper East Side, police said.
Ludlow, Mass., tallied a whopping 18 inches by 2 p.m., the highest total so far, the National Weather Service said. Central Park recorded 9 inches as of 1 p.m., and Albany, N.Y., received 4 inches in just one hour.
“The amount of snow … combined with the gusts of wind at 40 to 50 miles per hour is a very dangerous combination,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during an afternoon briefing on Long Island. “This is not a storm that should be taken lightly.”
Thundersnow lit up social media posts as residents experienced the rare phenomenon during the height of the storm, with the most reports from southern New England.
"We are currently experiencing the worst of the storm," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "I want to emphasize to all New Yorkers, stay inside if you can. Don’t go out if you don’t have to," he said, urging residents to use public transportation if they must travel.
Half of all flights were grounded at both JFK and Newark airports. LaGuardia fared worse, with 70% of its flights canceled.
The scene differed vastly from just 24 hours before when much of the region enjoyed seasonally warm temperatures in the 60s.
On New York City's Upper West Side and in Central Park, dogs in pet boots danced in the snow and rolled on their backs while owners, jacket hoods pulled down low, held onto leashes and chuckled trying to keep up. Kids off from school rushed toward the park's steep hills pulling sleds behind them.
A few hardy runners made their way slowly over the powdered snow. On the streets, people in boots and hooded all-weather coats walked gingerly along sidewalks, some carrying grocery bags and others slowly making their way to the nearest subway entrance.
As a swirling wind blew at Rockefeller Center, a lone worker in a yellow parka pushed a roaring snowblower back and forth across the surface of the ice skating rink that sits below the golden-colored statue of Prometheus.
Along the Midtown Manhattan center’s main plaza, Virginia Barbosa and Adrian Oteo, tourists from Argentina, were among the few visitors. Speaking Spanish, the couple said they came to New York City from Resistencia, a city in their country’s Chaco province. Snow wasn’t about to stop them from visiting the spot that traditionally hosts the city’s most famous Christmas tree.
“It’s wonderful,” Barbosa said, shrugging at the snow and then smiling as she gestured toward the ice and the flag of many nations flapping gusting wind. “We wanted to go here, and now we’re here.”
Stephan Groves and his son, Jack, threw snowballs into a fountain across from Rockefeller Center. Groves said the snowfall let him mix work and pleasure.
"All my meetings got canceled, so I took my little son out to see the snow," he said.
On New York City’s tony Park Avenue, doormen repeatedly cleared the snow from the sidewalks in front of apartment buildings, home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents. Cars and other vehicles proceeded cautiously in the blowing snow, some skidding on the hillier stretches of adjoining Lexington Avenue, a major southbound artery in Manhattan.
While many enjoyed the scene, the storm also held danger. Hazardous travel conditions remained for much of New England into the afternoon. Blizzard warnings were in effect for much of southern Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including Boston. As much as 20 inches was possible on Cape Cod.
About 20,000 customers were without power as of late afternoon in eastern Massachusetts, CBS Boston meteorologist Danielle Niles tweeted. Scores of school districts, including Boston and New York City, shut down.
A snow emergency went into effect Thursday morning in Boston and was scheduled to remain in place throughout the storm, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said. About 10 to 15 inches of snow was forecast to fall on the area. Nearly 70% flights were canceled at Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Boston Public Schools announced they again close Friday. "We’d rather be safe with our children than not,’’ Walsh said, the Boston Globe reported.
Bacon and Rice reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Ben Mutzabaugh, Matthew Diebel, Eli Blumenthal and Kevin McCoy in New York.