Schools and offices closed in north-east US as snowstorm delays commutes

On the other side of the country, fresh snowfall in California brings more precipitation to drought-hit region

A winter storm that has already left areas of the southern US with more than 15 centimetres of snow moved into the Northeast on Friday during the morning commute and prompted many school districts to close for the day, while over on the West Coast more snow was forecast in the drought-hit region.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker urged people to stay off the roads and take public transportation if possible, as the storm was forecast to drop as much as 30cm of snow in coastal areas of the state.

In New York, the first winter storm of the season was set to taper off by mid-morning after about 10cm had fallen in New York City. More snow was set to drift across the surrounding region, said Bill Goodman, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

A worker clears snow in Times Square in Manhattan on Friday. Reuters

A similar amount of snow fell in parts of Washington, which was hit by another storm earlier this week, while in Boston, where schools have been cancelled, heavy snow was set to continue throughout the afternoon.

Government offices in Washington were closed, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s website.

The storm was moving up the mid-Atlantic coast, where it had already contributed to 2,199 flights being cancelled across the US, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. More than 1,100 of those were from airports in Washington, New York and Boston.

Although New York roads were mostly empty of cars as the snow fell on Friday morning, officials said the main thoroughfares were cleared for commutes and for kids to go to school. Still, a number of subway lines were experiencing delays, and the Staten Island Railway and Metro North were switched to special schedules.

During a morning press briefing, New York Mayor Eric Adams urged parents to send their kids to school despite “the criticism from those who think differently.”

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Northern California was expecting more snow on Friday, after receiving record snowfall in some areas in December.

A series of Pacific storms have piled up snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and brought heavy rains across lower parts of northern California since October.

The Central Sierra Snow Laboratory recorded nearly 5.2 metres of snow last month. Scientists say it is the snowiest December on record.

The heavy snow and rains have eased the severe drought in the western US state.

In mid-December, about 80 per cent of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought conditions; by the end of the month only about a third was experiencing those conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor.

As of January 4, 99.3 per cent of California was classified to be in drought, the monitor said – marking the first time the state has fallen below 100 per cent drought conditions since May.

However, nine of California’s 12 largest reservoirs are still below normal levels for this time of year, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources.

Updated: January 7th 2022, 2:41 PM